Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wish I'd Written That

The law is an envious monster, and you represent it. You can't tolerate a decent and swift conclusion to a skirmish between an individual and what you call society, as long as you have it in your power to turn it into a ghastly and prolonged struggle; the victim must squirm like a worm in your fingers, not for ten minutes, but for ten months. Pfui! I don't like the law. It was not I, but a great philosopher, who said that the law is an ass."

- Nero Wolfe, as written by Rex Stout, The Red Box

Monday, November 28, 2011

Crazies at it again

So here I am, after picking up parts for our small business easily, on Friday morning without any traffic and being very peaceful (it's good for B2B work, too, to save money and see no traffic at brick and mortar places), I join a close friend who is running the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon next week in a tiring 90-minute cardio and weights workout, before heading back to the shop at lunchtime, all of which came just a day after I disappointed myself being sixteen seconds slower than last year's turkey trot (my tenth).

Meanwhile, the looniness of the big-box stores and malls with “Black Friday Doorbusters” rears its ugly head with land-rushes worse than the “sooners” before 23 April 1889. Stores turn into Krzyzewskiville on Thanksgiving, some even piling the lines with tents and sleeping bags after lunch, waiting for the 20.59.53 ignition of the first red light, all the way to having the five red lights turn off at 21.00.00, or others with the same procedure at 21.59.53 or 23.59.53. Some places the lights were on at 4.59.53, but they were mostly malls and those who turned on the red lights later later were late-comers with few shoppers except for those with sense.

Those parked under the starting gantry watching the five red lights come on and running immediately to the department of the store where they wanted to buy the must-have item within tenths of the lights extinguishing were the ones who showed little class. In Los Angeles, a woman used pepper spray, typically used ins self-defence against stalkers, to spray those trying to purchase a video game system at deep-discount prices. In Arizona, a shopper hid a video game in his clothes, which led officials to worry a shoplifter or was a terrorist, since homicide bombers load explosives under clothes in the acts of terror, resulting in his beating. In North Carolina, shootings took place at malls. The numerous violence of Black Friday with shoppers standing outside as if they were in Krzyzewskiville, watching the red lights at the gantry prepare for their five-second rundown, has gone too far. We have lost our standards of decency.

What gives? Oh to just do a Turkey Trot (27:42) with one friend and then a hard workout with another on the ensuing Friday instead of being packed at the “worst day of the year in the malls” ensures knowledge that there are things more important, such as health and a day at work, instead of the obsession that has taken place. Might track clubs seriously consider Black Friday half marathons starting at 5 AM to keep real runners on course and not in the malls?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let the holidays begin!

Classic Sports Thursday

Today Steve Spurrier, head football coach for South Carolina, is known as "The Old Ball Coach." But back in the day he was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at the University of Florida. Here he is appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1966 as part of the All-America team.

Great, isn't it? First the camera misses Spurrier altogether, then when Ed has him out later in the show, you can hear him mistakenly refer to Spurrier being from "Miami" rather than "Florida." Oh well, that's Ed - gotta love him.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Opinion Digest

Paula and Jason Coyle uncover another Life Enhancement Centre that has released another piece of apostasy called a "Bible Study" that's built around another piece of pop culture, and not on God's Word. When will these ministers learn that these studies of popular culture are not appropriate for God's House?

Albert Mohler describes the defeat of Mississippi's "Personhood Amendment" as one where "We're All Harry Blackmun Now," a reference to the Supreme Court justice who authored the legalisation of baby murder.

Jonah Goldberg notes how the President is now blaming regular Americans for the employment crisis, when the problem has been the policies in place since Pelosi took power in 2007.

Dan Doherty talks about the Leftist indoctrination on college campuses -- and as I've noted, the leftist indoctrination there is why school policies protect pedophiles, which has launched the recent round of troubles on campus with sex offenders.

Janice Shaw Crouse writes on liberal activists' attempt to normalise pedophilia -- it is indeed an outrage, and normalising it would protect pedophiles further, as the sexual deviants' agenda has successfully barred policies against pedophilia.

Victor Davis Hanson asks why the United States defends Israel, Taiwan, Kurdistan, Greece, and Armenia.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Retro TV Friday

With the news Time Warner (owner of Lorimar) and their cable channel TNT will air a sequel to Lorimar's 1978-91 series "Dallas" that could in theory be called "Dallas: The Next Generation," as it focuses on John Ross Ewing III (the son of J. R.) and Christopher Ewing (the adopted son of Bobby Ewing), two characters when last we saw them were children, we look back at the anniversary to a legendary moment in television that still is one of the biggest in television because of a two-month delay caused by an actors' union strike. The episode is still the most watched non-special or season/series finale shows of all time. While it was the most-watched show of all-time when it first aired, the last M*A*S*H* and Super Bowl XLIV (the end of CBS Sports' 50th NFL season) have surpassed it but they were not regular episodes.

350 million watched the episode worldwide, with 83 million in the United States alone, carrying a 76% share.

Sunday is an anniversary of a television legend.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Classic Sports Thursday

As part of our Tribute to Joe Frazier, we remember the Foreman-Frazier bouts. This from 1973, and we know the famous call.

"I think Joe is hurt. Angie (sic) Dundee, Ali's trainer right next to me is saying it. You may hear him . . ."

The end of the sequal of Foreman-Frazier:

And one more for the show, the Ali-Frazier battle had a fourth chapter, in the turn of the century. The daughters had a 21st century battle more about determination than skill, boxing at its grass roots, in eight two-minute rounds (in women's boxing, rounds may be no longer than two minutes) on the Boxing Hall of Fame Weekend.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Opera Wednesday

During the runup to an aborted election to determine if video poker would be stopped by the next July, a famous evangelical minister, Anthony Evans Snr, spoke to a large crowd about the issue after the video poker lobby (“pokies” to our Australian mates) had bought the preceding year’s gubernatorial election, eventually leading to expanded gambling in our state that has hurt it. Isaiah 65:11-12 warns those who forsake God and sets a table for luck, and furnishes an offering to it will be killed, as they ignored God in favour of luck.

While we stopped the pokies and had them banned the next July (it was my only time I could celebrate winning that fall; I had just graduated from college in the middle of a terrifying losing streak and that fall was a winless year; it was so bad I contemplated taking the family’s Mercedes and dipping it into the pond near the home or entering it into a demolition derby, as everyone in town supported the rival and they cheered at my expense; my car couldn’t stand it and a head gasket blew out after the season), sadly, our state a year later (mostly because of a certain group that voted for it) sold out to the casino lobby with the state “LOOTtery,” and people have forsaken God in favour of luck, with luck being a virtue now in schools.

Now what does that have to do with opera?

Ah, it reminds me of a recent attendance of a twin-bill of Menotti operas, The Old Maid and the Thief and The Medium, with my discussion based on the latter that I attended, along with a plethora of old friends I’ve known (Mr. and Dr. LaRoche, Miss Heintzkill, Dr. Stallard, et al) from my Decade of Classical Music.

Looking at the number of media that appear on television in the past decade, with infomercials for the “psychic friends” organizations prominent during late-night television, and the popularity of New Age spirituality among Hollywood with ideas such as Harry Potter teaching a generation into the New Age, seeing old friends sing again (one posted me a message that she was emotional as it was her last with the university opera company), I thought about what I had seen in The Medium. Seeing Mme Flora (the medium) away, her daughter Monica and servant Toby are playing your typical children’s dress-up games and upon the return of Mme Flora, they haven’t prepared the home for the upcoming session with the Gobineaus and Mrs. Nolan.

The medium is supposed to “speak” to the deceased sixteen-year old daughter, after which Mrs. Nolan, infuriated at what she thinks is her girl but is Monica and Toby running an elaborate light and telephone scheme, tries to meet Monica, but is restrained by the other family in the psychic’s home, the Gobineaus, which then attempt to speak, using the medium, to their deceased daughter, but it is the laughing voice of the medium’s daughter too! The result was the psychic thinks the servant has pulled trucks, and refunds the two parents of the deceased. Still, the deceased’s parents think they truly spoke to their dead children. Thinking the servant, who was in the puppet theatre, was a spirit, she kills the servant.

What came to my attention was how gullible people are to “crossing over” with the deceased. The Gobineaus and Mrs. Nolan both believed they spoke to their dead children, when it was Monica and Toby’s games. They had been suckered, and Mme Flora was too, as she thought the servant she hired for the ruse was too a ghost.

The Gobineaus, Mrs. Nolan, and Mme Flora all had forsaken God in favour of finding cups to fortune. Two were lied and never believed it, and Mme Flora thought her own servant was a ghost to be killed. Regardless, the lesson I learned was never to trust psychics, and that Bible verse posted at the start of this column should be a warning why we cannot trust media such as those in the Menotti opera.

This was from the practice session:

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

- John McCrae

Occupiers' Reign of Terror continues

The Occupy Wall Street crowd's antics continue to trouble me. In Mount Pleasant, on the U. S. S. Yorktown, docked at Patriot's Point (where we went on field trips), Congressman Michele Bachmann made an important speech on foreign policy when Occupy protesters started screaming and whining about "diving America" and complaining about the rich (their modus operandi). It is evident we have a group who wants America like the first two years of Obama, where it was they hold all speech cards, and nobody could speak but they can. They want another four years of one-sided liberal rule, and to disrupt Mrs. Bachmann's speech shows their entire goal is a CCCP.

We've converted the military from a fighting force to defend this nation from enemies to ramming down indoctrination of the sexual deviants' agenda down our throats. This continues the troubling mess of the Left.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This Just In

Classic Sports Thursday

I wroter earlier this week about the "Fight of the Century" between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Here it is, from 1971, in all its glory and splendor. The legendary Don Dunphy is at the mic, with assistance from former champ Archie Moore and Burt Lancaster (!).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The real problem is protecting pedophiles in policy and law

In recent years, sexual deviants have been running ruses to protect their own at the expense of the children, and this is a troubling story in our education system, especially when deviants have written policies making "sexual orientation," "sexual preference," or any other form of sexual deviancy a protected class. Such policies can be used to force schools to hire pedophiles, and in the Obama Administration, we've seen Shepard-Byrd and the law that replaced the armed forces with a Department of Social Engineering, Special Rights Division.

We have seen states redefine marriage or enforce "civil union" laws that redefine marriage to the requests of activists, and punishment against churches, which can no longer offer foster children as laws give sexual deviants special protections in violation of the Bible in such states.

The real tragedy in the Penn State case is the push for protection of sexual deviancy by installing such protection of sexual deviants in nondiscrimination clauses, Shepard-Byrd, and the DSE/SRD is that child molesters and pedophiles can hide under such "sexual orientation" or "sexual preference" protections by educational institutions, corporatiosn, and governments. And that is the real problem we face today -- the sexual deviants' agenda has created an atmosphere that is pedophile-friendly, and unfriendly to its victims. For these deviants violate standards in the Bible.

For further research, see the following verses of the Bible: Romans 1:26-32, Leviticus 18:22-30, Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthinians 6, and Jude 7-9.

Just Asking

There's no doubt that the situation at Penn State is a horrible one. And yet -

I can't help but wonder whether the same people who continue to decry the abuse of "the most defenseless in our society" show the same concern about the kids who are still in the womb?

Or the elderly?

Or the terminally ill?

Not accusing - just asking.

Opera Wednesday

Aweek ago Saturday the Met broadcast Mozart's Don Giovanni, a spectacular production with Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role.

Don Giovanni is a terrific opera to be sure, but it's not one of Mozart's best, and I think part of that is due to what, in my humble opinion, is a rare mistake in judgement by the great Wolfgang. It comes in the final scene, where the wicked Don is dragged off to hell by the ghost of the Commendatore, whom Giovanni murdered earlier in the opera.

This is a tremendous scene, building to a resounding climax, and it should be the end of the opera. But no - for some reason, Mozart sees fit to stick in a final ensemble in which various characters whom Giovanni has wronged come together to pronounce their final judgement on him. It's a totally unnecessary coda - the music builds to its natural climax in the death scene, the audience is ready to applaud, the lights dim, what more could anyone ask for? We get what the moral of the story is, we don't need to have it pounded into our heads.

In the past, many conductors would leave this last scene out altogether, understanding that the dramatic flow of the opera demands that it conclude with the Commendatore scene. Unfortunately, the opera is rarely performed that way today - directors who seemingly have no problem cutting, moving and bastardizing other productions apparently freeze up when it comes to one simple little cut in Don Giovanni. Oh well. (Although, thankfully, there are exceptions.)

Be that as it may, it's still a terrific opera. But if you want an idea of how it should end, here's a televised performance of that scene, with Tadeo Giorgio as the Don. Now tell me: after seeing this, need anything more be said?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Joe Frazier, R.I.P.

One of the problems with growing old is that the icons of your youth grow old as well, and die, and every time it happens a piece of your youth dies as well, and in the end it reminds you - all of us - of our own mortality.

"The Fight of the Century," as it was called, was one of the seminal sporting events of my young life. It was March 8, 1971, and I was ten years old. It was Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali, and boxing was only part of what it was all about.

It's difficult to explain it to someone who wasn't alive at the time or (in the case of my wife) wasn't into sports, what an event it was. In my 5th grade class we discussed it animatedly, all of us aware of how high the stakes really were. I ran across this description from Yahoo! Sports, and I think it summarizes the atmosphere about as much as anything can:

The occasion itself transcended sports. The buildup to the fight was a cultural phenomenon, splitting America (beyond those who were already fans of either fighter) into two factions: the pro-establishment, pro-war camp rooting for Frazier, and the countercultural, anti-war group pulling for Ali, who was stripped of the heavyweight title and his boxing license in 1967—at the height of the Vietnam War—for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army.

It was an iconic event in American history, on a level that could never be approached by any other combat sport. The who's who—from Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra, who served as a photographer that evening for Life magazine, to New York Knicks guard Walt "Clyde" Frazier—were at the Garden to witness Frazier's epic battle with Ali in the flesh.
At least that begins to describe it. Burt Lancaster was one of the announcers on the closed-circuit broadcast, and the artist LeRoy Neiman painted the men as they fought. Everybody who was anybody was there, in the arena that thought of itself as the Center of the World, Madison Square Garden.

There was a deep aura of mystery about the event. There was no home television, so if you wanted to see the fight you had to go to a movie theater and plunk down your money (an early form of pay-per-view). There was no radio, either - only a round-by-round summary that was read from the studio after each round ended. I don't remember the host of that radio broadcast, only that the commentator was the former champion, Floyd Patterson, who refused to call Ali anything other than his given name, Cassius Clay.

And that was part of it too, of course. Ali was a tremendously controversial man, not the beloved figure remembered today through a gauzy film.  He was arrogant and taunted his opponents with a blistering, almost dehumanizing cruelty.  (Called, by writer Tex Maule, a "barbarous display of cruelty.") The memorable 1996 ceremony in which his "lost" Olympic gold medal was replaced, happened in the first place because he had thrown the original in the river after refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.  And there was his association with the Nation of Islam, which resulted in his 1965 title rematch with Sonny Liston being moved from Boston to Lewiston, ME.  (I've been in Lewiston; trust me, you don't hold a heavyweight title fight there just for the fun of it.) 

Patterson called him Clay, and so did many others, as did my mother, who disliked Ali and what he stood for intensely.  I recall us staying up late into the night, far past my bedtime, listening to the summaries on the radio as they were presented, her keeping score by using one of the pages of advertising from the TV Guide (the middle section that was from the Columbia Record Club, I believe), marking down an "F" for each round Frazier won, and a "C" for those won by Ali.  The fight was, everyone supposed, a cliffhanger, and Frazier's 15th round knockdown of Ali figured to be the decisive blow.  It wasn't; Frazier had a big enough lead to have won anyway, but the image of Ali on his back, the tassels of his shoes flying, was imprinted on one's memory.

I didn't know much about Joe Frazier prior to that night, but I was thrilled that he'd beaten the hated Ali (or "Cassius Clod," as one talk show host referred to him), and I was tremendously impressed by the dignity with which he conducted himself in the face of Ali's caterwauling bluster.  From then on Frazier became my favorite fighter, through a couple more title defenses until he was shockingly knocked out by the surly young George Foreman (years before Foreman himself would become a loveable hero).  There was another Frazier-Ali bout, which Ali won, and then the "Thrilla in Manila," in which Ali, now the champ, defeated him once again, a result that left me as bitter and disappointed as had ever any sporting event.)

Frazier was never the same after that fight (nor, for that matter, was Ali).  And for a good while, he never received the credit due him - for being the first man to beat Ali, for being a powerful and proud heavyweight champion.  It was easy to be overshadowed by Ali, especially as his bravado became more and more the mainstream in professional sports.  And then there was that embarrassing episode on SuperStars where he almost drowned during a swimming competition - that didn't help much either.  But he kept on, fighting for a few more years until he was beaten once again by Foreman, in a bout between two former champs now on the has-been trail (or so it seemed for Foreman).  He started a second career as a singer, and made a hilarious commercial for Miller Lite.

And eventually, people came to appreciate that Joe Frazier was a great champion, and a man who'd handled his fame and career with grace.  There was widespread shock last week at the news that he was suffering from liver cancer and hadn't long to live, and when he died Monday night at the age of 67, there was a heartfelt outpouring of grief, including statements from Ali and Foreman, his two biggest rivals.

I realize that much of this seems to have been a celebration of Joe Frazier more for who he wasn't than for who he was, but sometimes that's how you measure a man.  And lest we forget, today people warmly remember Smokin' Joe Frazier as a man who, through it all, never lost sight of what it meant to be a champ.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wish I'd Written That

When I'm pushed, I shove."

- James Garner, in his new autobiography, The Garner Files. Just goes to show that you don't need a lot of words to make a statement.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Retro TV Friday

The last couple of weeks at the It's About TV site, I've been writing about television coverage of John F. Kennedy's funeral. A fascinating study of the relationship between television and religion - check it out!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Classic Sports Thursday

We're getting down to crunch time in college football, and this Saturday features the first time in five years that the number one and two ranked teams in the country meet in the regular season, when #1 LSU takes on #2 Alabama.

Back in the day, before the BCS guaranteed an annual #1 vs #2 "championship game," a matchup like this would have been called "The Game of the Century." College football has seen a number of these over the years, at least one a decade (which leads one to wonder exactly how sportswriters define a century), but few of them match up to the hype. One that did, in a most unexpected way, was the 1966 game pitting #1 Notre Dame against #2 Michigan State.

Mike Celizic’s wonderful book The Biggest Game of Them All illustrates just how this game profoundly changed the way in which television looked at sports. Among other things, it created a demand for media credentials unsurpassed in sports to that time (it took the Super Bowl years before it became as big a media sensation), caused Catholic churches throughout the nation to change confession times so as not to conflict with the game, and became the first sporting event telecast live via satellite in Hawaii.

It may be hard to believe now, but through the 60s and early 70s the televising of college football was a closely regulated business. Teams were limited to the number of appearances they could make on TV each season, and even the biggest games were frequently seen on a regional, rather than national, basis. The Notre Dame-Michigan State game, which was hyped to a level that would be remarkable even today, threatened to change everything.  College football fans everywhere were on the edge of their collective seats throughtout the game, but nobody was prepared for what wound up happening.  Here are the climactic final minutes of the controversial finish, with Chris Schenkel and Bud Wilkinson calling the action:

Well, that was something, wasn't it? How many of you expected that?

It's hard to imagine now, since overtime guarantees a winner in every college football game. It was even harder to imagine, back then, that the "Tying Irish," as they became known, would let the clock run out rather than go for the win. But there was a method to Irish coach Ara Parseghian's madness - he calculated the AP voters would be unlikely to drop Notre Dame out of the top spot because of the tie, particularly since they had rallied from a ten-point deficit without their star quarterback Terry Hanratty, who had been injured early in the game, and star running back Nick Eddy, who missed the game altogether due to an injury getting off the train in East Lansing.

Parseghian also had another ace in the pocket: this game was Michigan State's last, while Notre Dame would finish their season the following week against USC. (Neither team would play in a bowl game that year; Notre Dame had a longstanding policy against bowls that would not end until the early 70s, while the Big 10 prohibited any team from going to any bowl other than the Rose. Michigan State, which had played in the Rose the previous year, was ineligible because of another of the Big 10's rules, the "No-Repeat Rule" that prevented teams from playing in the Rose Bowl in consecutive years.) Notre Dame crushed USC the next week, 51-0, and indeed won the national championship.

Someday when I've got more time I'll go into the cultural rammifications of this game, which were immense, in more detail. But for now let's just concentrate on the game, for which autumn Saturday afternoons were created.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Opera Wednesday

From Rossini's charming comeday L'italiana in Algeri, The Italian Girl in Algiers, here's one of its many charming arias, with the great Marilyn Horne singing "Cruda sorte." This is from a Met Opera performance in 1986, with James Levine conducting.

And here's a Marilyn Horne encore, with another of her greatest hits.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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