Friday, February 26, 2016

Your Oscar recap - before it happens

Apparently the Academy Awards are this Sunday night. I say "apparently" because I'm actually writing this on the Friday before the Oscarcast, just to show how foolish and predictable the whole thing has become, and how easy to predict it is.

Time was when I really looked forward to the Oscars. That was before the show itself expanded from the tidy 90-minute-to-two-hour broadcast it had always been to the bloated four-hour telethon it has recently become, before the movies themselves separated into three categories: CGI-laden superhero spectacles, slob-driven gross-out comedies and politically-charged arthouse dramas. Back then I hadn't seen most of the nominated movies - I wasn't old enough to get in to a lot of them - but it didn't matter, because they were the movies everyone wrote or talked about, and even if you hadn't seen them yourself you'd heard about them, and you were able to develop something of a rooting interest in one or more of them. The actors and actresses in them were also common faces - you'd seen them on magazine covers or on television, and there was a very glamorous aura around them.

Even the broadcast itself was different - it was traditionally on Monday, late in the evening, which gave you something to look forward to throughout the dreary Monday workday (or schoolday, in my case). It was to entertainment what Monday Night Football was to sports, and I don't know why the Academy wasn't able to understand how the NFL made Mondays special that way.*

*I've read that one of the NFL's ambitions in constructing an entire urban village around the new Rams stadium in LA is to have a theater worthy of hosting the Oscars. Doubtful it will ever happen, but if it did perhaps they'd be able to give it some of that Monday night buzz.

If you're like me, if the magic is gone from your relationship with the Academy Awards, then it's as a public service that I present this rundown of what happened on the show last night, even though it hasn't actually happened yet. Think of this as my gift to you, freeing up your Sunday evening so you can do something fun instead.

Host Chris Rock spent most of the evening making jokes at the Academy's expense. He never explicitly mentioned "#OscarsSoWhite" because that's what everyone expected him to do, but he walked right up to the edge all evening, which became a knowing joke between him and the hip audience. Everyone had a good laugh (or two or three) at Donald Trump, with several reference to it being a "Uge" night, and at least two presenters came onstage wearing various versions of The Donald's hair. One acceptance speech will refer to the courage of women like Hilary Clinton, and at least one arriving celebrity will be shown wearing a Bernie Sanders button.

Speaking of which, attendees and participants never were quite able to figure out how to show their solidarity with this year's social justice cause. At first the idea was to wear black ribbons in support, the way they had worn red ribbons during the AIDS crisis, but this backfired when it was pointed out most viewers wouldn't be able to see the ribbons against the black tuxedos. An alternative - to switch to white suitcoats (always fashionable) in order that the ribbons would show up better, was rejected for obvious reasons, as was the idea of wearing blackface to show that "we are all black under our skin."

The Revenant was the big winner last night, taking home the awards for Best Picture and Best Director. Everyone hailed the movie's astounding ability to depict the struggle between humankind and the environment, and how people can only achieve ultimate victory through cooperation with our animal brethren. Likewise, Best Actor Leonardo DiCaprio was praised for delivering an acceptance speech largely devoid of the environmental polemics he's best known for. In a subtle, reflective speech, DiCaprio mused on how he never imagined he'd be standing at the podium holding an Oscar, concluding that it proves how "this is a wonderful world - let's be sure and keep it that way."

The Best Actress award went to Bree Larson for the little-seen Room, who praised the courage and determination of the real-life women who've undergone the same ordeal as her character. Best Supporting Actress was won by Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs, in an upset over The Danish Girl's Alicia Vikander, whose campaign was doomed by too many health-conscious Academy members who thought Vikander was playing a pastry chef. The emotional highlight of the evening was Sylvester Stallone's victory in the Supporting Actor category. The audience rose in ovation as Stallone mounted the steps to the stage, pausing at the top to recreate his famous Rocky pose on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The telecast will end sometime around 12:30am Eastern, and over the next couple of days there will be discussion over the show's record low ratings, and what can be done about it. Four months later, Jimmy Kimmel will be presented as the host of the 2017 broadcast.

There - now that you've read it all, you don't have to feel as if you missed anything. Your gratitude will be award enough for me.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Throwback Thursday: On-the-job training

The Catholic blogger Fr. Z often comments, in an attempt to keep concerned traditional Catholics calm after another of the pope's kerfuffles, that "he has to learn how to be pope."

I thought of that when I came across this book last weekend, which of course I had to buy.

How to Be Pope, by Piers Marchant

So did anyone actually think to buy a copy and send it to him?  Might have prevented a lot of grief later on, no?

Originally published May 31, 2014. Apparently some things never change.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Opera Wednesday: The death of Butterfly

The way an opera ends is as important as the way it begins. Verdi got this, and his operas often ended with a dramatic crescendo; Mozart, for all his genius, did not, as the anticlimactic conclusion of Don Giovanni proves. Puccini got it as well; as the conclusion of Madama Butterfly proves. When the shattered and despondent Butterfly takes her own life, it packs an emotional wallop. If you need more evidence, listen to the immortal Maria Callas in this unforgettable performance. The recording is from 1957, with the great Herbert Von Karajan conducting.

This Just In

Permanently Banned Mets Pitcher Looks Forward
to Future Pitching Opportunities, While Merriam-Webster Calls for Investigation into the Word “Permanent” 

(New York, New York) Feb. 15, 2016  New York Mets pitcher Jenrry Mejia, who last week became the first player in major league baseball history to be permanently banned from the league because of repeated infractions of baseball’s “no steroid” policy, can look forward to applying for reinstatement  next  year.

Mejia, 26, who signed—and received significant portions—of multi-million dollar baseball contracts since 2010, was given the permanent ban after he failed a doping test for the third time. "It is not like they say. I am sure that I did not use anything," Mejia told a Dominican journalist after the ban was announced, a significant departure from his previous “I have no idea how a banned substance showed up in my system,” comment following an earlier failed test, for which he was already serving a year-long suspension at the time of the latest ban. 

Major league baseball allows a permanently banned player to apply for reinstatement after one year. The minimum length of a permanent ban is two years.

In a related development, editorial executives at Merriam-Webster have called an immediate meeting next week at their corporate offices in Springfield, Massachusetts, to consider possible changes to the official definition of the word “permanent.”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Remembering Nino and the importance to Decision Saturday

The death of "Nino" (a reference to Antonin Scalia) has raised the stakes for Saturday's all-important primary in the state.  With the loss of the Sage on the Court, Dear Leader has upped his stakes to fundamentally transform the country another step.  With sexual freedom and related erotic liberty replacing religious freedom and liberty in Obergefell, now he wants to ensure a permanent gun ban, a call for socialism, and more wicked invented lawmaking to assure a dictatorship as he envisioned will arrive.

We have a socialist dictator whose judges have eliminated the Constitution and replaced it with their own feelings, which is the ultimate "progressive" utopia.  Congress cannot bow down to this dictator and do it again, or else our entire Sanctity of Human Life accomplishments in recent years also go out the window.  It would furthermore give an appeasement to criminals, giving younger criminals further incentive since they cannot be punished for their severe crimes (as seen in Roper and furthermore Graham, in that teenage criminals cannot be given proper punishments for their heinous crimes).  If we have a nation ruled by just a few cities, it would be a federalisation entirely of Reynolds, the case where large cities gained control of a few states, and we have seen the cost of those cities taking absolute control.

This makes for Decision Saturday (which I am committed, and have committed to a candidate) that will matter, since a win here will mean one step closer to a court that can overturn all of the nasty deeds.

Three commentators on the Sage of the Supreme Court.

Hans von Spakovsky

Albert Mohler  

Mario Diaz

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Flashback Friday: This Just In

Mid-Level Accountant Bemoans Office Card "Sameness"

HAMMOND, IN -- Frank Smelman, an accountant at Lardlakes Industrial Supplies, has complained to his fellow employees for what he calls "the lackluster and half-hearted" efforts they put in to his recent birthday card that circulated around the office for their signatures.

"I swear they put exactly the same stuff in there they did last year, almost like they just xeroxed it," said Smelman, who has been at Lardy's for a little over 14 years. "At first, I was really touched by their sentiments: 'Best wishes for a good year...nice working with you...happy birthday and many more to a nice guy.' I thought, 'what a great place to work, with people who really care about you.' But then I started comparing it to what they'd written last year, and there was practically no difference. C'mon, you think there'd be something else to say, something original, after all these years of working with these people. It's all so impersonal, like they hardly know me.

"There's such a sameness to the whole thing, you almost wonder if it's worth the effort," continued Smelman, who is considering going to his firm's Human Resources Department to report his complaint. "Why do they even go to the trouble of buying a card?"

Smelman sees it as a part of a bigger trend. "You see it in the other cards people sign, too," he says. "The funeral cards, the congratulations for promotions, things like that. People just seem to be going through the motions when they sign these things, and it gets very depressing. Almost makes you want to go work in another office somewhere."

Originally published July 19, 2007

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An L-shaped reflection

Now some random thoughts after L:

Team loyalty?  As was the case with a certain motor racing superstar, the Carolina Panthers came "before my time".  I was a college student by the time the team was announced and later the team had played its first game.  In my youth, the television primarily aired Washington Redskins games, as the Redskins were the team our region received weekly.  The most popular station in our city aired Redskins games on most weeks, not Falcons games, so we had many Redskins games on television.  (That motorsport superstar of today is mostly burgundy with his social media discussion, but he was a month from turning 21 when the first Panthers game was played.)

Bad halftime shows.  When CBS and the NFL made the decision 25 years ago that XXVI would be Minnesota-themed with a winter carnival, complete with figure skating legends Hamill and Boitano performing to cross-promote the upcoming Winter Games in France, it led to a ratings fiasco when viewers jumped to the adult raunchy late night comedy sketch show airing in prime time as counterprogramming. The NFL changed the game for halftime, and it's been worse.  For reference, I found the last five Super Bowl halftime shows before the NFL made the change as a result of the ratings fiasco when the adult sketch show drew enough viewers to concern the NFL:

XXI (Pasadena):  A salute to Hollywood's 100th anniversary.  Hollywood legends involved
XXII (San Diego):  Radio City Music Hall performance, with Chubby Checker and the Rockettes.
XXIII (Miami Gardens):  Elvis impersonators and card tricks.
XXIV (New Orleans):  A celebration of New Orleans and the Peanuts.  Last halftime with marching bands.
XXVI (Minneapolis):  A celebration of winter featuring figure skating by Boitano and Hamill, and G. Estefan performing.

Note that I omitted XXV, since that show was not broadcast as a result of Gulf War coverage.  (It was Disney's Small World with a popular teen pop group.  25 years later, the kids performing probably will still be angry that their moment in time was broadcast late at night.)

With catcalls from many regarding the artists performing at the Super Bowl halftime, which has become nothing more than a rock concert by the pop star of the time (look at the recent lists of left-wing elite pop divas), is it time the Super Bowl halftime show return to its roots as a family-friendly show with marching bands and localised themes?  Think of Houston with a celebration of the Rodeo, or New Orleans with a show celebrating the city's comeback from Katrina, or had it happened in East Rutherford a few years ago, a celebration of Broadway including the music of the Rat Pack and the Metropolitan Opera (that was the year La Belle Renée did the national anthem, remember?).  If the NFL would go back to basics, maybe halftime would be a greater celebration of the good with marching bands and themes that would be friendly for families.  Imagine in 2004 if there was a tribute in Houston to the Johnson Space Center, on the one-year anniversary of the STS-107 tragedy, of America's travel to space, and a memorial to the Apollo 204 test, STS-51-L, and STS-107 at halftime.  It would have been far better than the show that drew outrage.

As for the Electric Football game reference recently:  Back in the day, the goalpost issue between the amateur and professional level led to the reason the term "post pattern" was used -- the idea was to put the opponent into the post.  The goalposts were on the goal line as a result of the 1932 Championship Game indoors at the Madhouse on Madison.  By the mid-1970's, the goalposts were moved back.

New logo, now?  CBS Sports debuted a new logo for Super Bowl L, finally retiring the logo that had been used by the network since the early 1980's and had been part of the network's branding.

And cross promotions?  For the Friday "go home" episode of The Price Is Right leading to Super Bowl L, CBS pulled off the theme, complete with "Posthumus Zone" (the network's NFL theme) playing during the opening to the show and into commercial breaks, prize themes with the game, NFL legends modeling (including a car modeling skit where the ex=players were waxing the car), and Super Bowl tickets.  This is triennial because it is done only in years where CBS has the Super Bowl.

Welcome to the media, Jeff.  Fox will give Jeff Gordon his first primetime show on February 20 when he hosts his Daytona 500 eve party show that will air at 9 PM ET.  That's something none of the other two Fox motorsport analysts (McReynolds, D. Waltrip) have done, though the latter has posted a publicity photo where he hosted Ralph Emery's television show, which is a byproduct of his friendships he built as a young club racer in the area when he appeared on Emery's radio show. (

So what's Marc thinking?  The leader at a PCA church who is a baritone for choral pieces I've had the opportunity to sing in the past is bringing a 90's female supergroup to perform at his church. Back in the pre-LaRoche Era Bobby, I'd attend their concerts when they came up.  But, of course, the LaRoche Era was a new era in how I thought of music, and I am thankful for the LaRoche era.

A good omen for the Socialists?  The two Socialist candidates for President have both attacked Wall Street.  The markets are likely headed for the shredder as the AFL beats the NFL, which is how the Super Bowl Index works.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The buzz that lingers

If you were like me growing up (and, as I always say, you should have been), you remember electric football - the game with the vibrating plastic men who never went where you wanted them to, instead congregating on the sidelines against the board's edge - or, even worse, running the wrong way into the opponent's end zone.

The Tudor game pictured at left was the second electric football game I ever had, and the first one to have real teams, instead of the generic red and white teams.  This one had the Cardinals and the Bears, and included spare holes in the end zones so you could move the goal posts from the goal line (where the pros had them at the time) to the back of the end zone, for the college version.  (Although why you'd want to use college rules for NFL teams was always a mystery to me.)  For me, the real fascination with the game lie in the externals - the simulated cardboard stadium, the design of the field, the helmet logos on the side of the board, and the different teams you could buy.  I had my share of games over the years, each one of them with its unique characteristics, and although none of them played very well, I loved them all just the same.  The games have long since disappeared from the household, but they've also disappeared from the stores, a victim mostly of our continuing obsession with the latest technology.  When you can recreate games and leagues with a computer, why bother with a three-dimensional game that doesn't work very well?

My interest in them has always remained, though (as hours of trolling around eBay would attest), and so I found this article (h/t Uni Watch) of great interest, telling us of efforts to revive the electric football industry.  I know I'm not alone in my affection for the game, as this book and website show, and I really hope Doug Strohm's efforts to get the NFL merchandising license pan out.  The games have improved over the years, and besides, there's something so - social about it all.  It's not sitting in front of the screen for hours; it's something you do with other people.  It's something you can be part of in ways other than simply pressing buttons.  And I wish them all the luck in succeeding.

By the way, that game pictured on the Unforgettable Buzz website?  It was one of the great games ever made, a Tudor special edition for Super Bowl III, as the logo and the teams would indicate.  It was the first to be specially made with the Super Bowl logo and markings on the field, and it was the first game to feature an AFL team in white uniforms (previously, NFL teams came in both dark and white jerseys, but AFL teams were dark only).  I had this game, and although the Colts may have lost the real Super Bowl, in my version they beat the Jets every time.  Of course, I can't promise that I didn't help the players out a little from time to time...

Originally published April 26, 2013

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Opera Thursday: The bohemians

That's the literal translation (or at least close enough) of the title of Puccini's famed opera La bohème, which was first performed this week in 1896. The story, as is so often the case, is fairly idiotic, but Puccini's music, as is so often the case - well, if the story bothers you, you can always close your eyes and listen.

This rendition of selections from the opera looks to have been from a television broadcast of 1956, though I can't find a quick description. It features two of the greats of 20th Century opera, Renalta Tebaldi and Jussi Bjorling. Is anything else necessary?

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Great One

Wayne Gretzky is now 55, same age as me, and it just doesn't seem possible. When he first appeared in the NHL, as something unlike which we'd ever seen, I never thought of him as being the same age. He was young, unbelievably young; a superstar while still a teenager. And yet the age similarity didn't compute; John Updike once wrote famously of Ted Williams that Gods do not answer letters, and I suppose there's something of that in this: mortals do not compare their ages to Gods. I never got to see him play in person, but even though our television coverage of hockey was woefully inadequate for much of his time in the game*, everyone knew about him - even non-hockey fans.

*Not that there aren't plenty of highlight reels of him; it was only living in the Twin Cities that our television coverage suffered, thanks to our lack of cable for so long. On the other hand, it also means that whenever you search him on YouTube, he'll take your breath away.

Joe Posnanski wrote about Gretzky as the greatest, in a way that's undefinable in terms of statistics or records or grace - it's worth sharing because, ultimately, there is no other way to describe him, not even as Paulina's father.

He was a child prodigy who, like Mozart, defied the rules of gravity in his craft. He imagined a new way to play. Sure defenses are tougher now, and goaltenders are better now, and he might get roughed up a bit more. But so what? Gretzky always found a way. Geniuses are like that.

We'll just leave it at that, I think.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...