Friday, February 26, 2010

Modern Coca-Cola Ad Goes To The Past

Some of us who read this biog are clearly older, and have enjoyed the old commercials posts. But a recent ad that debuted during the Daytona 500 (which, in the eyes of most advertisers, is the #2 "ad wars" event of the year. The likeability of the advertising in the first of NASCAR's three majors (no more Grand Slam since Ferko) has become a major reason why advertisers prefer ads that air during the 500 over other events.

For the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola decided to turn the clock back nearly forty years in this scene. During an intense pit stop, and drivers frustrated during the race, Tony Stewart turns the clock back to the year he was born (1971) and lets us remember an old advertising campaign that most older people remember (and for a younger generation, a Reunion that took place during the Super Bowl 20 years ago). Let's see what happens when Coca-Cola takes us to the track and Smoke "takes care of business" back to the past for a fun take on today's stars trying to be that group that made a signature ad of Coca-Cola. 

Doctrine, Theology, and a School Choir? (Feminist Music in Church)

There are blogs I read that often discuss the dangers of contemplative spirituality which is New Age thinking that has appeared in some churches. According to the Lighthouse Trails Research Project, it is a "belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and pantheistic (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are 'spiritual formation,' 'the silence,' 'the stillness,' 'ancient-wisdom,' 'spiritual disciplines,' and many others. It has much similarity to the PUMSY/DUSO Hinduism train of thought that was taught in school under the "Self Esteem" movement in schools." [1]

These false teachings are rampant in many notorious false teachers (Rick Warren), notorious megachurches (Willow Creek), liberal publishers, and even a popular book (The Shack) [2].

This information leads me to a note I received while attending "More Light for Haiti: Candlemas Anno Domini MMX, The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord," a benefit event for Catholic Relief Services (a concert that featured Creole music in addition to art songs and beautiful choral music, from Thomas Fettke and Linda Lee Johnson ("The Majesty and Glory of Your Name, which I love), to the Requiems of Mozart and Duruflé's, the Pie Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Ave Maria from Charles Goudod, and selections from musicals ("Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music) and operas ("Viens, Mallika, les lianes en fleurs... Sous le dôme épais" from Lakmé), new Creole-influenced music and selections from both musicals (Phantom of the Opera ). My hometown college (not my alma mater), a well-known chorus led by Liliann Quackenbush (who was one of the conductors of the Die Jahreszeiten selections that I sang last August, and conducts the Washington Street UMC Messiah singalong I attend each December), and that host Catholic church's choir. The note mentioned the choir of Concordia College of Moorhead, Minnesota's concert being held at the church (which I have attended a few concerts), and it mentions new works by director René Clausen, along with "traditional chorus pieces".

That choir will perform in churches the traditional selections of hymns, "Clausen arrangements" of movie music, selections with another choir, and an "avant-garde piece" that uses the live chorus, piano, theatrical lights, and pre-recorded nature soundtracks and choirs that has the "faking it" zing that was been a warning over the years. But the most dangerous portion to me was the use of Bobby McFerrin works.

Normally, you might just give it a pass. But I remember while in college, while writing a review for a college paper as part of my arts requirement in college, I was highly suspicious of a McFerrin work used in a dance event. It was a suspicious setting of Psalm 23 (not to be confused with the settings I've heard in various places) from Mr. McFerrin, which was clearly a feminist-oriented theology based on God as feminine. That was highly sacrilegious and inappropriate music to be used, and to be using this feminist tune with "invented" "added to this to appease one group" that you do not see in a legitimate Bible translation does not make any sense.

How can a church offer a concert in their setting with such feminist false doctrine and theology being sung in the holiest of holy settings, in such a wonderful church?

So on one side (as I mentioned earlier in the week) you have New Age thinking and kids jiggling to highly controversial music with questionable lyrics at deafening volume louder than what's permitted at many NASCAR K&N Pro Series tracks, and on the other side you have a religious college's choir likely performing feminist theology works in the sanctuary of a church. Sometimes you cannot win, and at other times you keep asking yourself is contemplative spirituality coming into the church with such a feminist theology? Having studied Psalm 23 when I was barely in first and second grade at the parochial school that no longer exists, and heard the McFerrin and Troccoli interpretations of it (they were both around the same time; Miss Troccoli's arrangement was based on her mother's last days but I don't hear the wicked feminist tones I hear in Mr. McFerrin's, which drew instant red lights), I cannot wonder why Concordia would sing such feminist and incorrect doctrine in their tour. They are, in the words of Heather Payne when she commented about false teacher Rob Bell, "leading people astray" when such false teachings are being used.


[1] Lighthouse Trails Research
[2] Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcy. How Now Shall We Live? Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999, p. 263-271.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You Can't Say That on TV

The Restless Gun was a western that appeared on NBC from 1957-1959, starring John Payne (Miracle on 34th Street) as Vint Bonner, a retired gunfighter who roamed the West in search of adventure - and usually found it.

Nowadays, we're always hearing about how television drama is so much more "adult" and "sophisticated" than it was back in the so-called "Golden Age" (which was far from golden for many series, truth be told). However, it's still striking what kinds of things used to be freely discussed on TV. One wonders if television is as open today.

In the episode "Dragon For a Day," Vint encounters John Fletcher, a teenager whose missionary parents have been slaughtered by a band of Yaqui Indians. John vows to kill every Indian he sees, while Vint tries to convince him that this these Yaquis are renegades, despised even by other Yaquis. In this exchange, the grief-stricken John turns against the faith of his parents, wondering where God was while they were being murdered.

Vint: I don't rightly know.

John: I know. He wasn't anywhere. He never was anywhere. And He never will be anywhere. Because there ain't no such thing as God!

Vint: Now wait just a minute.

John: How could He let them die like that? Suffer like that? How could He?

Vint: John, He let His own Son die. Let him be tortured, crucified.

John: But that was to prove that He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That was to prove something!

Vint: Maybe this was to prove something too.

John: Prove what?

Vint: (Long pause) It's said that God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

John: I can talk Bible talk with anybody. I was raised on it. And the Bible says "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." And I swear now before I die I'm going to kill one hundred Yaquis for my ma and one hundred Yaquis for my pa! On their graves I swear! So help me God, I'll do it!

Of course, John doesn't do it. In a conclusion that usually only happens on TV, the "good" Yaquis rescue John from the "bad" Yaquis, and John comes to realize that you can't judge an entire people based on the actions of only a few.

However, I remain struck by that conversation between John and Vint. Granted, Vint knows that he has to appeal to John in words the boy will find familiar. But still, the assumption here is that the words are just as familiar to Vint. Furthermore, while he wants to save John from a life of vengeance (and probably a short life at that), it seems just as important to Vint to preserve John's faith as well. In the long run, that may be the most important thing Vint can do.

I suppose many people today might find such dialogue too earnest, naive, stilted, even embarrassing. But it wasn't embarrassing back in the 50s, when programs like this were popular, just as it wasn't embarrassing back in the days of the Old West, when people really did think faith was important. I wonder if a screenwriter could write an conversation like that for mainstream television today without being laughted off the set?

Maybe we should be the ones who are embarrassed.


Here's a clip of the opening credits of The Restless Gun.

Monday, February 22, 2010

From the Wires

A violinist who plays for the Philharmonic, played for Messiah production last fall where I sang, and has been a running friend (we were supposed to run together at the aborted Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon XIII) noted Sarah Palin was "too angry to offer a coherent response" after she was mocked by "Family Guy" on February 14. I wasn't too happy with it either and applauded The O'Reilly Factor for Pinheads and Patriots on the February 15 episode -- the Patriot was Jamie McMurray, while the Pinhead was Family Guy.

My response:

"The character in question on Family Guy took a few shots at Sarah Palin that were over the line, so Mrs. Palin decided her daughter needed to help her too. And that made me wonder why they didn't take more time to fix the Daytona International Speedway -- Fox lost an hour of Sunday cartoons to the Daytona 500. It would have been better if McMurray fending off (Dale Earnhardt) Junior on Lap 208 was at 9:34 PM instead of 7:34 PM where Family Guy would never have aired."

Debate With Civility. At church recently I pointed out the troubles with the questionable song "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum. Instead of discussing the song, she pointed out instead that it was better to have people attend church with loud music, and nothing can be done with sacred song. Civility in a debate was lost since she went after things other than the issue discussed, and that was questionable content in a song. She defended the song by saying the virtues of teaching lies in church. ◙

Friday, February 19, 2010

News Digest

Krauthammer on whether the United States has become "ungovernable": Nonsense - the systems works. Read here.

Mark Steyn on "Why the West is going down the drain."

Thomas Sowell: how the government can conrol our lives "if we sell our freedom cheap." ◙

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rhode Island town fires teachers for refusing to work longer days

For those of you who, like me, think that the public school system is the next-best thing to legalized child abuse, this story has to brighten your day (H/T Derb at NRO):

Unionized Rhode Island Teachers Refuse To Work 25 Minutes More Per Day, So Town Fires All Of Them

The town is Central Falls, RI, where the median income is $22,000 – compared to the teachers at the high school, who make between $70,000 and $78,000.

Let us reflect on this moment with a selection played on the world’s smallest violin.

Unlucky XIII

I cannot imagine how many complaints about stopping Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon XIII presented by Chick-Fil-A events after two of the four running events (the Ripley’s Family Fun Run and the Royal Bank of Canada 5k) finished Friday, with Saturday’s Bi-Lo Marathon and Dasani Half Marathon not taking place after a frantic squabble with the race organisers, the city of Myrtle Beach, and local ambulance services that started with a Friday meeting at 11 AM that attempted to push the 6:30 AM start to 7 AM. As the snow began taking flight in the state, some of us were stranded and made the decision not to show for the marathon.

Officials then tried to check weather conditions with a meeting that took place after the Friday events were held (about 6:30 PM), and the organisers announced they were planning to start the marathon at 7 AM. The city had enough, and the city took control of the decision afterwards. By 9:45 PM (the pre-race packet pickup had been extended), it was clear to officials (some had sent messages to area media, picked up on a social networking site) that the marathon, South Carolina’s largest, was not happening, and by 10:30 PM it was officially announced called off, eight hours before the scheduled start time, when many runners had been in bed awaiting the rescheduled 7 AM start that they had hoped would start melting the ice.

Many of us had trained for months for this moment, and some had aspirations of larger events. The anger poured into magazines and local media about the snow preparations, especially when Saturday came and with some ice on roads, they decided to protest with anger about stopping the event by trying to run the route. Others questioned why the race could not be run on Sunday, in a state with blue laws restricting sporting events on Sunday.

I must ask those who complained a few serious questions about their actions:

Wish I'd Written That

Hey, it was the 13th marathon on the 13th of February. Something was bound to go wrong."

-- One of the over 6,000 runners who had registered for Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon XIII commenting after officials called off the event Friday night, just eight and a half hours before the rescheduled 7 AM start because of snow, ice, and concerns of police, volunteers, and course workers. While it did not snow afterwards, and the roads were in decent shape at the aborted start time, the decision was made as the radar did not look good at 9:30 PM in the evening and the heavier snow was making its way through the state. I was stuck at home thanks to the snow and did not make it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's Lincoln's Birthday - Honest, Abe

Whether we celebrate it or not, February 12 is in fact Abraham Lincoln's birthday, and although Abe's undergone something of a cultural renaissance in the last few years (Team of Rivals, etc.), we still let this day go by too easily.

'Twas not always the case. Here's a clip from John Ford's 1939 movie Young Mr. Lincoln, featuring young Henry Fonda in the title role.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's Only a Job

Last week I wrote about loving your job, and how for me, at this advanced point in my professional career, such was unlikely to be the case.

One thing that’s struck me over the years is listening to the number of athletes who talk about how they don’t love playing the game. For them it’s a job, not a vocation, and quite often a painful job at that. I guess I can understand that – we’ve turned sports into such a year-round, full-time, big-money profession (most pros used to have jobs in the off-season to make ends meet, like selling insurance) that there’s really no reason why an athlete would feel any different about his job than anyone else.

This weekend Judie asked me if I though racing drivers felt the same way as other athletes. I thought about it for awhile and decided that, if anyone in sports really loved what they did, it would probably be racing drivers. They’ve grown up with cars from an early age, worked on them mechanically as well as driven them, and are subject to fewer external micromanagement than, say, a football player. Plus they’ve always been an eccentric lot; back in the day when auto racing was much, much more dangerous, most drivers took it for granted that they would eventually die on the track. So maybe “love” is a strong word; perhaps it would be more accurate to say that being a racing driver is not only what they do, but who they are.

And musicians? Well, there’s an area where I thought there would be some love. We always hear about the spiritual powers of music, especially classical music. But apparently that ain’t so either, as Alex Ross points out in this quote from the February Opera News interview with conductor Riccardo Muti:

I am very astonished when some of my colleagues—pianists or conductors or violinists—are asked, “What do you feel on the podium?” or “What do you feel when you play?” And they answer, “An enormous joy.” For me, all my life, it’s been an enormous pain—I’m never happy about what I do.

Fascinating. Muti’s comment suggests that he looks at himself as an aberration within the music world. But, sadly, it sounds more like he's just another working stiff trying to get along.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Religious Stupidity - Mosaic and the Air Force Wiccans

It's well known that I am not fond of Life Enhancement Centres, which masquerade as churches but instead of teaching God's Word, they teach life enhancement. Erwin McManus, the head of the notorious Mosaic in East Los Angeles, has organised a commercial that they hope will win the Super Bowl XLIV contest organised by Pepsico's Frito-Lay's division. This man's false teachings have irked many and now he is using social networking sites along with other similar false teachers (Rick Warren most notably) to promote his campaign to make it to the annals of Super Bowl Commercials. I remember leaving a Bible study years ago when I exposed his material being used, and knowing of his false theology. Just when is a Super Bowl Commercial is more important than God's Word?

While we are purging our nation of our Christian heritage by mandatory secularism (including the elimination of religious holidays from our schools), the "recognition" of humanism as the official state religion through our textbooks, and even adopting Hinduism in our schools ("PUMSY" self-esteem classes), the United States Air Force Academy is now recognising Wiccan prayer circles by adding a Stonehenge in the Rocky Mountains to serve as the official "worship centre" for this occultic practice for our troops. (See also this link from the Air Force Academy.) Add that to what will almost certainly be Obama Worship in history books to make him look much better than what he truly symbolises (CCCP, green movement, homosexual activism), and we have a recipe for trouble. With this occultic practice coming officially to the Air Force, could we see schools install official recognition and worship of more false religions of false gods while the one true God of the Bible is gone?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lights, Camera, Football!

The best time to be thinking about your ideal job may be when you’re unemployed, as I am. Or, it could be the worst time. Best, because you have a chance to make your life over. Worst, because you also realize how unlikely getting paid for doing what you love really is.

At any rate, I cannot imagine a more ideal job than working here – NFL Films. Always have felt that way, since I was a kid. And I doubt it will happen now; partly because they’ve been hurt by the economy just as other companies have, partly because I’m not much of a fan of the modern NFL, and partly because I don’t really want to move to New Jersey.

But it still looks like a great place to work, and anyone who’s seen the magic that came from them particularly in the 60s and 70s will know why I think that Ed and Steve Sabol are among the greatest documentarians ever – I’d put them up there with Ken and Ric Burns without any hesitation, maybe even a little ahead, and almost to the level of Bud Greenspan, who I think is our greatest modern documentarian.* Watching those programs on TV as a kid was sheer drama, just mesmerizing – the rain! the snow! the mud! All in slow motion with the voice of God in the background while using the greatest movie music since Miklós Rózsa.

*Where’s Michael Moore, you ask? No, you didn’t really ask.

Anyway, here’s an excellent article by Joe Posnanski, who as it turns out seems to feel the same way as I do. Maybe I won’t have the chance to get paid for doing what I love, but NFL Films still ranks #1 in my book.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV Commercials: Tebow Clean, Go Daddy Sleaze

Once again Super Bowl time comes, and once again we hear about the $2+ million thirty-second commercials that appear during the broadcast.

Now we hope CBS will run the pro-life advertisement of Focus on the Family that discusses how the mother of Tim Tebow (who would make a top quarterback prospect, whose eligibility has expired, legalising the commercial) spared his life and chose not to kill the child. That makes sense, especially since we need to defend life in light of a year of Presidential policies that support baby murder (repeal of Mexico City and Hyde Amendment), proposals in Congress such as the Freedom of Choice Act and declaring baby murder “health care”, and social events such as “Pink Sunday” in churches that support Planned Parenthood, and news that Lilith Fair (a feminist rock concert series known for promoting sexual deviancy and Planned Parenthood) was returning this summer have pushed our side back nearly to the Stone Age with the way the Left's massive push (and their judicial control) has planned in laws that permanently repeal policies of the Reagan era.

Meanwhile, raunchy advertising, an issue especially since the Super Bowl XXXVIII controversy, has resulted in networks increasing the crackdown on questionable risqué spots, and once again we have heard about another stupid commercial from Bob Parsons' Go Daddy Group.

For the Banned Commercial of the Game, the Arizona Web Hosting company has decided to run a commercial featuring The Mrs. Paul Hospenthal narrating the story of a former professional football player who starts a lingerie company. The startup lingerie company is portrayed with a Hugh Hefner-style character (complete with his bathrobe), and if you understand the history of Mrs. Hospenthal's day job (although it would be at least a decade before she broke into the industry), you should be able to understand the startup entrepreneur's name.

Thankfully, that commercial has been banned. But the stupidity of that commercial, and its sleaze, is downright dangerous. But what do you expect from Go Daddy, when sleazeball kayfabe athlete and actress Candace Michelle was the legit starter for the 500 in Florence, and the majority of commercials want people to access their Web site to see full explicit versions of their commercials? Seems the only “good” ads on Go Daddy they have kept are the clean-cut Dale Earnhardt Jnr commercials. (Mr. Earnhardt's 2009 commercials have been pulled from the site; they contained Nationwide driver Brad Keselowski (won six races driving for Mr. Earnhardt – 4 in 2009, then won a Sprint Cup Major), who has since left for Roger Penske for a Sprint Cup-Nationwide package.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Academy Awards, R.I.P.

With the announcement of the Academy Awards nominees this morning (who knew?), particularly in the newly-expanded (ten, up from five) list of Best Picture nominees, one thing is now apparent: The Academy Award is no longer an award; it’s a certificate of appreciation; and the show itself is no longer about competition, but recognition. It’s a pity that David Letterman doesn’t host this show anymore, because the Best Picture race is now little more than one of his Top Ten lists.*

*Yes, I know that back in the early days of the Oscars the Best Picture list was larger – as many as twelve movies some years. Of course, that was also in the days when you had movies such as Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, and Stagecoach getting nominations in the same year. Maybe it’s a little different now, I don’t know. You be the judge.

For example, there are some nice movies on that list. A few thrills, a few laughs, a good investment of your entertainment dollar. But in all honesty, is there any way that District 9 or The Blind Side can be considered serious contenders to win? No. Avitar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, maybe Up as an upset special. Those are the serious contenders, and I think everyone knows it.

But that’s not the point for the rest of these movies. Now they can bill themselves as “Best Picture Nominees” and be happy with their share of Oscar-night glory. A little cachet, some nice horn tooting, and bragging rights for the people involved. (“I worked on a Best Picture nominee!”)

This isn’t to suggest that every movie nominated in past years was a serious contender to win. There were years when you had the feeling the Academy had to scramble to come up with even five nominees. And there were other times when the outcome was pretty much assured even before the nominations were announced.

But still, despite all the talk about “It’s an honor just to be nominated,” you had the idea that there was competition involved, that something delightfully unexpected could happen. (See: Chariots of Fire.) True, the Academy was recognizing the best of the year – however you want to define “best” – but it was more than that. There was the drama of the unknown, the idea that until that envelope was opened you really didn’t know who was going to win. Of course, they don’t even say “The winner is” anymore, so what can you expect?

In recent years the Academy has gotten the rap – justified, in many cases – that Best Picture nominees had become a collection of “important,” art-house “films” with portentous, often highly political and/or sexual themes. The box-office gross of the five movies combined often failed to add up to that of the highest-grossing movies of the year individually. The announcement of the nominees was frequently received with a collective shrug from a movie-going public who either hadn’t heard of the nominated movies or had heard enough about them to know that they didn’t want to see them.

However, in expanding the list of nominated films from five to ten, the Academy has acknowledged that their goal is not to open up the award to greater competition, but to give more movies a chance to be recognized publicly. I thought that’s what the end-of-year lists from Time and People and Entertainment Weekly were all about.

We all knew the Oscars had become a sham, but then Hollywood used to be in the business of creating dreams. The fact that these watered-down nominations are now a pat on the head means the studios can’t even do that anymore.

News Digest: Krauthammer

Simply put, I think Charles Krauthammer is the best political commentator around. I don't agree with him all the time (on abortion, for example; he's pro-choice), but even when I don't, I recognize that he brings up points that need to be considered.

It's generally recognized that he is the Obama administration's prime critic; that is, the one of whom they need to be most careful. Between his penetrating analysis and his pungent, often tart, criticism, he is a very dangerous man for the left. And, as a licensed psychiatrist, when he says that a politician is suffering from paranoid delusions, he knows what he's talking about!

Here's his lecture yesterday at the Heritage Foundation, as he discusses Obama: the "first anniversary of the Second Coming."

Monday, February 1, 2010

To Sid With Love

It was my senior year in high school, in the toxic waste site also known as Hancock, Minnesota (1978 pop. 815). We were asked to do senior profiles for the yearbook, and one of the questions asked was “Who is your favorite movie actor?” It being 1978, you can imagine the variety of answers. Someone said Woody Allen, as I recall, others chose John Travolta or Sylvester Stallone, and I’m fairly sure somebody said Raquel Welch.

I picked Sidney Poitier, partly to flummox my classmates (most of whom had never seen a black person live before; I was always doing things like that), but also because he really was a favorite of mine. The Defiant Ones, A Patch of Blue, To Sir With Love – I’d seen them all at one time or another, on the Saturday late show or the weekday matinees I used to watch during the summer. In the Heat of the Night was perhaps my favorite; frankly, I still don’t see how Rod Steiger, good as he was, got an Oscar for that movie rather than the non-nominated Poitier.

What I always liked about Sidney Poitier was his class, his dignity, his ability to rise above the situation. Michael Moriarty likes it too, in his interesting and quite insightful column Friday for Big Hollywood. As John Nolte notes in one of the comments, though Poitier in real life may be a lefty, when he’s on the screen class trumps everything. The man has it, and so it was a real pleasure to read in Moriarty’s piece that he not only has it on-screen, but off-screen as well.

A Comment on Comments

As many of you may know, Haloscan is going away, and so we have chosen to replace it (at least for the time being) with Blogger default comments. Unfortunately, this means we've lost many of your brilliant comments over the years, but in that case we're simply counting on you to provide some new ones.

This is a work in process, so if you have difficulty leaving comments please bear with us.
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