Monday, October 28, 2013

We knew it

TThis weekend as I write being the start of El Superclásico, the first leg of the huge football derby between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF, it came to my attention news that major subscription television carriers had announced they were adding Al Jazeera America to their systems.

Was it coincidence considering Al Jazeera holds United States rights to Liga BBVA?

Think about it. This derby is easily one of the biggest ratings weekends for Al Jazeera in the United States, with it airing on their most popular channel in the States, BeIn Sport, which we've noted both on this blog and It's About TV, a channel on the rise with the demise of Fox's football and motorsport channels. They held the rights this past season for World Superbike and World Motocross, and with Fox effectively winding down their Supercross coverage after the 2014 season because of FS1's Big East basketball coverage clashing with the first half of the Supercross season, and changes to the Fox MLB coverage taking out the second half, Al Jazeera will take a shot at bidding for Supercross when Feld Motor Sports offers rights bidding for the 2014 Monster Energy Cup and 2015 Supercross seasons [1].

Sen. McCain has been attempting to prohibit the practice of channel bundling, where subscription channels tell providers to carry one channel, you must carry the other channel. This is the strategy I predicted would be Al Jazeera's strategy once they established BeIn. Once BeIn became a larger channel with more clout, as we're seeing now with the second season of football's top stars, and taking advantage of the shutdown of Fox's Charlotte (motorsport) and football operations (though it will restart in 2015 with the Bundesliga and the first of the major tournaments under the 2015-18 and 2019-22 cycles), including carriage of the United States national team's road qualifiers, Al Jazeera is now in the next phase of their expansion strategy. Forcing the carriage of Al Jazeera America as part of bundling BeIn was the next step for Al Jazeera to expand in the United States. Now with the first contract expiring on many outlets, they are now able to build clout to add the channel in the second contract between subscription companies and Al Jazeera.

[1] Because of legal ramifications regarding the breakup of what is now the American Athletic Conference, I had previously referenced the conference as the Catholic Seven (non-FBS schools) until the legal name change was implemented July 1. Feld Motor Sports splits the deal between Fox (rights fee) and CBS (time buy).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Curse at Le Mans?

The 1981 24 Heures du Mans, which here is noted as the only run of the French classic by a motorsport legend from the Florence area, was marred by two fatalities, one a marshal and one (Jean-Louis Lafosse) in a crash caused by mechanical failure on RN138 (now RD338), the four-mile long Ligne Droite des Hunaudières straight that has since been shortened by the two chicanes installed in 1990, that injured two marshals in that crash.

Maria de Villota (left), Sean Edwards (right)
The sad irony came this week following the deaths of former Marussia F1 driver Maria de Villota and Porsche Supercup (F1 undercard series) points leader Sean Edwards days of each other. (Miss de Vilotta's death has been confirmed to have come from the injuries from the straight-line testing crash in a British airfield last year.) Mr. Edwards was leading the Porsche Supercup with the final race, the Etihad Airways Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, upcoming.

Mr. Lafosse's crash came as he was following a Lola T600 of Juan Fernández (ESP) and the parents of both deceased drivers, Emil de Villota and Guy Edwards, listed as the three drivers.

Oh the sad irony of the stunt double who played his father in Ron Howard's Rush during the scene where the father was one of the drivers that rescued Niki Lauda in that horrific fire in the Nuerburgring in a crucial scene of the movie, based on the 1976 F1 battle between Mr. Lauda and James Hunt, die in the 180-degree corner at Queensland Raceway leading to Dick Johnson Straight in a horrific fiery crash where the Porsche ran over the tyre barriers and into concrete.

How cruel can sport be? For the two co-drivers of the Lola T600 that lead the tragic Rondeau, how cruel that the two drivers would lose their children in racing crashes?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Are megachurches the problem?

In Steve Skojec's article which Mitchell linked to last Friday, Skojec writes that if people wanted fellowship, they could head over to the “megachurches” that are rampant in today's world. Have people seen the type of services they have in such “megachurches” or even “gigachurches,” as some have been called because of their gargantual size.

The modern megachurch has virtually become a chain-store type of gospel, if any gospel is taught – most often not taught, as instead it has become a self-help centre, engaged often in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a noted heretical movement of the 21st century. Many of these “branches” do not even have a minister in control, and instead have viewers watching the minister's “quickie” sermon (designed to ensure a service does not last more than one hour) on a video, and in some cases popular culture dominates the sermons. One well-known Southern Baptist church here (which in 1956 began a mission on the other side of town that became the church that welcomed a young immigrant family from Taiwan to the area – that church collapsed in 2001 and was sold to a Oneness Pentecostal – apostay alert in denying the Trinity – church run by our city's newly elected mayor) hung billboards outside the main highway with signs promoting a popular culture-based sermon series, which we've mentioned in Our Word many times is the problem with churches today.

Many of these places are located in areas where you would not imagine would be a house of God. The local megachurch is branched in a former grocery store building, and walking into the church's sanctuary, complete with pillars, it resembles a rock concert hall, with a huge stage for the rock band and an intimate theatre-type surrounding for those who attend. Over in the big city just 80km away from the home is a branch of a notorious heretic with his “church beamed via satellite where each branch has its own rock band that plays the same song list in each congregation, and just beams from the flagship the sermon – in essence, a take on the nickname for a brand-new newspaper 31 years ago started by Al Neuharth that has become a well-known publication. These Life Enhancement Centres are often located in former department stores, convention halls, or other large building but not in houses of worship. They play the same service 15 times a week across the state with each building featuring its own local band and small staff, but what is being taught? And what about ministers helping those in need when there are thousands in that place every weekend? They aren't there to help those in need, such as the times I've had to talk with clergy one-on-one during family crises.

Instead of the didactic sacred song of centuries ago that taught God's Word, such as the sacred song that the Pope Emeritus has praised, and too many writers that I've read, especially with my experience over the years with church musicians and singers, the listener is drowned with loud 100dB rock music featuring material from the major church music publishers of today – Sony ATV Songs, Universal Music, Warner Music Group, Oregon Catholic Press, or GIA Publications (yes, Oregon Catholic Press and GIA Publications are both in many Protestant order sheets today), that drill attendees into a trance. Sometimes, those in attendance do not even learn the blasphemous nature of the songs being played in the megachurch services (see Sunday's service at one such venue with a song that I denounced and led to a flame war by those in church who supported the song without understand its questionable lyrics).

These entertainment-driven life enhancement centres are destroying Protestantism on one side, as are heretics pushing false teachings on the other side, which the local Anglican minister wrote a few months ago how the great Anglican split took place in the 20th into the 21st centuries (our part of South Carolina is in the Diocese of South Carolina, an independent Anglican congregation that split from The Episcopal Church). What had me wondering how ignorant mainliners were came during an interview I had with some practicing members of an Eastern New Age religion -- many had been Episcopalians, lost because of the heretical teachings there.

What Pope Francis has seemingly done to Catholics is possibly lean the Catholic Church towards the megachuch philosophy we're seeing in the Protestant world from false teachers such as Osteen, Hybels, and Noble. If he is, he's dangerously close to being heretic.

Separated at birth?

Left: Pope wearing firefighter helmet; Right: Calvin Coolidge in Indian Headdress

Another example of why Jack Kennedy said he'd never be photographed wearing a hat - they won't take you seriously...   

Monday, October 14, 2013

Retro TV Monday - This Week in TV Guide, October 3, 1959

Lee Marvin is, according to this week's cover, "TV's Angry Man," but he sounds more like a character from a Paul Auster or Don DeLillo novel, or maybe Ernest Hemingway.

I can't really call Bob Johnson's article an interview or a profile, because aside from the first and last paragraphs, there's no evidence that Marvin actually answered any questions.  Instead, he conducted a very entertaining two-page stream-of-consciousness monologue.

The article begins with Marvin (and, presumably, Johnson) leaving the set for the lunch break.  "'It's moving,' he said, stomping and muttering through smaller billows of the claylike material he was brushing out of his crew cut with both hands.  'If it's moving, baby, I say grab it. Look at this filthy mess.  Let's go.'"

The topic is, naturally, M Squad, which Marvin starred in for three seasons. I promise you, these are actual quotes from the article, not taken out of context.

Read the complete article here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The problem with Francis

Steve Skojec hits it on the head: (h/t Rod Dreher)

So back to Pope Francis. What is my problem with him? Well, let me start by saying that I had hope for the papacy that followed Benedict XVI. I had an inclination that maybe he really knew what he was doing with his abdication and that something was coming that the Church needed. And yet, when I saw Francis that first moment as he stepped out to face the massive crowds in St. Peter’s square, I found myself filled with inexplicable dread. I had no idea who the man was or what he was about – I had never even heard his name before that moment. But there was something in his face, in the deadness of his eyes, that inspired in me a feeling of revulsion. I have always had a strong ability to judge character, but I tried to suppress it. I attempted to find ways to give the benefit of the doubt. I could not discount a successor of St. Peter because of nothing more than a feeling. But that feeling was strong, and I have never been ill-served by listening to my feelings about people.

Then he started speaking. And the statements he has been making are intensely problematic. Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely. What kind of a Christian tells an atheist he has no intention to convert him? That alone should disturb Catholics everywhere. Many of his other statements, by and large, are less egregious, though they are still quite problematic. They are open to wildly varying interpretation because they are made without context, thus leaving it open to the will of the interpreter to apply it.


There are a lot of Catholics out there – good ones, probably far better ones than I am – trying to put a positive spin on every foolish thing the pope says. They don’t like it, not one bit, when other Catholics say things like, “Hey, what this guy is saying doesn’t sound at all like the Catholicism I’ve lived and studied MY ENTIRE LIFE. It sounds like something far different. It sounds like something intended to change the way Catholics believe.”

Skojec says he can’t fathom why anyone faced with the Church of 2013 would choose to convert to Catholicism:

For fellowship? I can get fellowship from the local MegaChurch, with far fewer impositions on my personal liberty. For the sacraments? But most Catholics don’t even believe in the Real Presence, most parishes have no adoration or Eucharistic devotions, most priests offer an hour or less per week of confession time on the parish schedule.

As a convert myself, I can totally understand and identify with this.  Now, mind you, I completely accept the teachings of the Catholic Church without hesitation or qualification.  But the point is, I didn't discover what those were until I'd already been drawn toward the Church.  There was something about it that was a powerful attraction for me, and the question I have is this very one - would I have been attracted to the Church, would I have bothered to take the time to find out what she stood for, if this was the Church being offered to me.

And ultimately that's what disturbs me - the number of people who will never discover the Church because they've been turned off by her, the number who will turn away from her because they feel as if they've been deserted, the number who will come to her because of a misguided belief in what she teaches, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to force her to conform to their desires.

Check that - it's not the number of people I'm worried about; it's the number of souls.

(And by the way - if you don't like what I have to say here, then it's just as well I don't write much about religion anymore.)  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Classic Sports Thursday - Allan Simonsen

A few years ago, Fox Sports in the States broadcast live Australia's signature touring car race, the Supercheap Auto 1000 from Bathurst, NSW, complete with Southeast-based broadcasters making the grand flight across the Pacific. Saturday night Australia will have the 53rd running of the classic (two races run in 1997 and 1998 because of a dispute -- one for the 2 litre European Super Touring formula in the usual October date and a mid-spring date for the 5-litre V8 Supercar formula that is traditionally Bathurst, mainly because of a dispute between Seven and Ten), the 43rd as a 1,000 km event (the first ten races were 500 miles but Australian metrification laws added 121 miles in 1973, abolishing the single-driver possibility that the great Peter Brock used in one of his nine Bathurst wins).

Tragic news from Bathurst history occurred in June when Allan Simonsen (DEN), the codriver of the pole-winning and eventual third-place finishing #11 Pepsi Max Kelly Racing Holden Commodore with Greg Murphy (who will be in Saturday night's classic in the #22 Walkinshaw Racing Toll Holden with James Courtney), was killed at the 24 Heures du Mans on Lap 3 going through Tertre Rouge when his Young Driver AMR Aston Martin went wide through the tricky double apex, hit the trees on the other side of the Armco, killing the popular Dane who had been set to participate in the Brad Jones Racing #21 car this season (a replacement has since been hired -- the #14 won one of the four Austin races in V8's this year (and also won with their #8 earlier in the season) - Triple Eight (#1, #10, #888) won the other three Austin races -- too bad ESPN dumped the V8's for their X Games next year at COTA).

Simonsen's lap of 2:04.956 in a Ferrari was taken during a hotlap meet at the legendary Mount Panorama circuit a hotlap event a month after the 2011 Bathurst classic, and was later surpassed by a 2:04.6187 lap in a Formula 3 car in Australia. Jenson Button also has a faster time from 2011 (1:48.88) in a McLaren MP4-26, but that was not in an official session, so it does not count.

In memory of the 2011 pole-winning team's co-driver, here's Simonsen's lap in a Ferrari that went under the 2:05 range:

2011 "Great Race" Finish (with US broadcast audio):

What's wrong with sports today

It's become fashionable over the last few decades to see a larger meaning to sports - to see baseball as representing a microcosm of life, for example.

There is, however, another - less romantic - way in which sports mirrors life today.  ESPN's Tim Keown, writing about the prospect of the city of Oakland losing all three of its professional sports teams, on what sports has become:

Take a look at those future ruins. They rose from the ground before crowds inside stadiums mimicked the stratification of the society outside, with the moneyed elite walling themselves off from the commoners in gloriously appointed privacy -- a logical extension of the gated, country-club community.
Are we destined to forever live in a sports world where amenities go from desirous to compulsory? Are fans and taxpayers just resigned to either building new shrines or losing their teams?
In the relentlessly monarchical world of professional sports, someone has to be able to forsake a digit or two in the bank account to create a legacy more meaningful than a trust fund that'll cover a lifetime of BMWs and Botox treatments for the grandchildren of his grandchildren. Someone has to consider the void left behind. And someone has to make a clear-eyed assessment of whether 4–12 will look any better through the window of a luxury suite with a view of LA Live than it does through the bottom of a smuggled-in fifth of Albertsons scotch in the depths of the Black Hole.

Do read the whole article.  Now, I've never been one to jump on the "trash the suburbs" bandwagon, though I myself prefer living in an urban area.  And there's nothing inherently wrong with living in a gated community, when the purpose is to provide a minimum amount of security to, say, an apartment complex without a security entrance.  But when the attempt is to create a permanent chasm between classes - in fact, to create a cultural subset where those of a certain lifestyle never even have to come into contact with "everyone else," then there's a problem. Sports has often been a means of building community, of something that crosses political, racial, or religious lines.  It was never meant to become a ghetto for the rich.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Opera Wednesday

We haven't done one of these for awhile, and since the blog's been kind of quiet lately (I'll have to talk to the contributing editors about that), there's no time like the present.

The way an opera ends can be as important as how it begins.  I'm not talking about the performance itself, although an opera that ends on a sour note (literally) can leave a bad taste in the mouth.  No, I'm talking about the actual ending as written by the composer.  I've written before about how for all his genius, Mozart got it wrong with the anticlimactic finale to Don Giovanni.  On the other hand, a powerful conclusion can favorably color an entire piece - as much as I liked Nixon in China, for example, I thought the final aria ("How much of what we did was good?") was absolutely stunning.

Here's a look at one of the great finales in opera, the tragic conclusion to Puccini's magnificent Madama Butterfly, with Patricia Racette.  Patrick Summers is conducting the Metropolitan Opera in this performance from a few seasons back.  There's a joke in music circles about Puccini being one's favorite composer of Oriental music.  He was Italian, of course, but uses Asian themes to wonderful effect in Butterfly (and Turandot as well), and there's no better example than what's seen (and heard) here. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Retro TV Monday - This Week in TV Guide, October 1, 1966

Over at the TV blog, I've been running a feature for the past couple of years called "This Week in TV Guide," in which I take a look at some of the more interesting cultural notes from back in the day.*

*A phrase just one step removed from "Get off my lawn, you kids."  Of course, the fact that I don't have a lawn right now is beside the point.

At any rate, here's a preview of this week's piece - be sure to follow the link to read the whole thing.


For the first time, the stain of the 1960s - Vietnam - graces the cover of this week's TV Guide.

Neil Hickey, TV Guide's New York Bureau Chief and author of some of the best news features published by the magazine, presents the first of a four-part series on how - and how well - television is covering its first war. It is a war "exorbitantly more demanding, both mentally and physically, than anything those earlier newsmen faced in Europe or the Pacific." It's a guerrilla war, replete with everything from jungle disease to ambush land mines and booby traps, field telephones that barely work, and as one correspondent puts it, "pushing the cause of journalistic profanity to new horizons." As NBC's David Burrington puts it, "There are so many imponderables and ironies here that it's sometimes difficult, if not downright impossible, to explain what's happening in terms that an American audience will understand." 

Read the complete article
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...