Thursday, April 27, 2017

The perversion lobby is out of control (social media attacks)

Writing this column days after being slapped with a social media suspension for saying the truth of the Kardashian-poisoned Bruce Jenner's appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight refusing to answer Mr. Carlson's question has allowed me to see the true form of “Bay Area Values” being imposed by elites on anyone who opposes their feelings.

During the episode of the Fox News program, Mr. Jenner (I refuse to use his Daytime Serial Drama for Men* gimmick) said he could not find any advantage of having men who claim to be women participating in women's sporting events, despite the contrary to incidents in New Zealand with weightlifting (man claiming to be a woman won national title), a mixed martial arts incident (man seriously injured woman in a woman's mixed martial arts event), and the previously mentioned incident we posted here regarding a lawsuit against CrossFit where the organisation's counsel sent a letter .

*In college, a few friends would get together and watch The Monday Night Wars every Monday night at the student union;  I had no idea of its popularity, but I learned they had called it a “soap for men”. A few times there was a pay-per-view  As we have referenced here in the past, the last “soap” went off the air in 2010, when the last daytime drama produced by a soap company ended.  These shows are daytime serial dramas, and “professional wrestling” would be called a male daytime serial drama, a derivative of these afternoon serial dramas being aimed at a feminine crowd.

The first I had heard of such stupidity was a 2002 movie filmed in Metrolina*, “Juwanna Mann,” where a man in a professional basketball league tries out in a women's league. Now we have seen the elimination of gender verification tests, and what standards are there next to be removed?

*Metrolina denotes a sixteen-county area around Charlotte.

In contrast to Mr. Jenner's spin doctors on Mr. Carlson's show, we must remember this:  Mr. Jenner was born with an X and Y chromosome, and the anatomy of a male of the human race. Notwithstanding hormone therapy or even surgery, he still has an X and a Y chromosome.  Sir, as the CrossFit letter to the competitor who sued to be in a women's division states evidently, he still has a genetic makeup that confers both physical and physiological advantage over women. No “sex reassignment surgery” will change any discussion. That's the genetic advantage CrossFit's attorney notes, Mr. Jenner and many supporting the perversion movement refuse to understand in order to advance an agenda.

Of course, the perversion movement takes advantage of elite cities and judges out of touch with an entire country to force their way when it was rejected, sticking their tongues out in front of everyone, and working to demolish any organisation (especially churches, Fox News, anyone with a Biblical worldview) that refuses to submit to their agenda. It is why Ted Cruz called out the Stonewall Values (which he referenced that drew the ire of New York City newspapers) being pushed at everyone else's expense. And after I answered Mr. Jenner by saying he is a male, and referenced that men should not be in women's events, I was reported probably by a perversion lobbyist and banned from social media for saying the truth.

Is there any truth left when the sexual perversion and humanist lobbies can dictate what can be said in society today?  Why is referencing CrossFit's letter to a male who claims to be a female wrong?  Why is saying the truth of Mr. Jenner wrong?  Why can a tiny group of crybabies impose their way as a CCCP Dictatorship?  I do not submit to these perversion lobbyists.  Why do we have to make their kayfabe be mandated as a “gospel” when the anatomical truth is banned?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Opera Wednesday

The title role of Benjamin Britten's 1945 opera Peter Grimes was created by (and likely for) Peter Pears, but from the late 60s on it was the province of the great Canadian tenor Jon Vickers. It was said that Britten himself was not particularly happy with Vickers' rough, almost brutish portrayal of Grimes (in contrast to Pears' more vulnerable interpretation), but for an entire generation of operagoers Vickers was Grimes.

Britten was quoted as describing Grimes as "a subject very close to my heart—the struggle of the individual against the masses. The more vicious the society, the more vicious the individual." It was and continues to be a story dramatically open to interpretation: was Grimes responsible for the deaths of his apprentices? Was he sexually molesting them? Or was he an innocent, persecuted by closed-minded villagers? Is Grimes victim or villain? Whether one prefers Pears or Vickers, the opera remains relentlessly intense - from the first bars through the famous, haunting "sea interludes," one knows that this will not end well.

From 1981, here is Jon Vickers in his final dramatic scene. Note the crisp enunciation of the English lyrics - a trademark of Britten's operas.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Flashback Friday: The automated world

At dinner [Wolfe] started on automation. He has always been anti-machine, and on automation his position was that it would soon make life an absurdity. It was already bad enough; on a cold and windy March day he was eating his evening meal in comfortable warmth, and he had no personal connection whatever with the production of the warmth. The check that paid the oil bill was connected, but he wasn't. Soon, with automation, no one would have any connection with the processes and phenomena that make it possible to stay alive. We would all be parasites, living not on some other living organisms but on machines, arrived at the ultimate ignominy."

- Rex Stout, A Right to Die

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Opera Wednesday

Nothing too complicated this week. I'm not a big fan of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute); I've seen it once, and that's enough for me. But it has some delightful music, none moreso than the famous Overture, heard here in this 2006 performance with Ricardo Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The losing of our historical reference points

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in the 1960's put an end to observing proper holidays on their days that they are to be observed, giving three-day holidays, instead of observing why these days were observed.

Monday's Boston Marathon is one event affected by this law.  Most people today do not remember that prior to the 1969 change, this event was originally held only on April 19, unless it was a Sunday, when it was held April 20.  Can anyone identify why the Boston Marathon prior to 1968 was always held on April 19 (or if it was a Sunday, then April 20)?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

He is Risen

Matthew 28:1-7:

1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

Christ is Risen!  And on the 275th anniversary of its debut, as an Easter piece, we celebrate with Händel's Messiah, and the ending of the Easter Motet of this sacred selection, that I participated in 2009 as a one-off at the church where my Sunday morning Bible study teacher's son and daughter-in-law (who died a few years ago of cancer) attend.  One of the choir members also shared a voice teacher with me for a year (Leah Hungerford, 2003-04).  (How can you attend church and be stuck with bad Top 40 hits when you can have the real material?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week: He Was Despised

Part II of Händel's Messiah, as we've known, was released for Easter, and in 2017, is the 275th anniversary of the release of the Eastertide piece (which sadly, most do not see it in the liturgical calendar).

These selections from the grandeur of Georg Frederich Händel represent the Passion of the Christ. Yet they are rarely heard in most areas as the second (Easter) and third (Pentecost) are rarely heard in performances.  As churches are being sold to the river by Big Entertainment's push to influence the music ministries of churches to sing whatever they are pushing, and churches led by loud rock bands are starting to control communities (those self-help Life Enhancement Centres skipped church on Christmas Day when it falls on a Sunday and are sometimes "Universal Music Only" congregations, a reference to the "one translation only" churches), and other well-known churches are now singing the latest hits from Sacramento's KLVR-FM on screens, with no musical notation listed, generations are sadly losing the appreciation of the masterpieces as they are only fed Top 40 hits.  The consequences show when they are older, as they only associate church with parties and self-help, and not of studying God's Word.

But let's listen to a set of pieces today from Messiah that fit our Holy Week:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Baseball Week: Farewell, Mr. Cub, and thanks

If ever there was a player who exemplified the joy of baseball, the delight in playing what is essentially a kids' game, it was Ernie Banks. No celebration of baseball could be complete without a tip of the cap to the man whose entire career was a celebration. Would that he would have been able to see the Cubs win the Series last year.

E rnie Banks, the Chicago Cubs baseball star, was buried today in Chicago. His performance on the field was spectacular—19 seasons, an 11-time All-Star, the first National Leaguer to win back-to-back Most Valuable Player trophies, a total of 512 home runs, Hall of Fame first ballot in 1977. His character off the field was even more exemplary—a spirit of joy, optimism and enthusiasm that was contagious way beyond the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

Yes, Ernie Banks certainly was, for all the right reasons, Mr. Cub.

There were times, many probably, when that spirit was tested. Banks was the first African-American player on the Cubs when he joined them in 1953. Even as tributes flowed at the news of his passing last week at age 83 from a heart attack, references were also made to early ‘50s encounters that hadn’t been so welcoming. “People said terrible, racist things to him,” one long-time Cub fan recalled. “But Ernie just smiled right through it.”

And then there was the losing. The Cubs have become the longest-running “lovable losers” in major league baseball, if not in all of pro sports. They haven’t been in a World Series since 1945. They haven’t won one since 1908. In Ernie’s first 14 years as a Cub, they only had one winning season. Ernie played 2,528 major league games. None were in the post-season. (That futility is summed up in a riddle. “What did Jesus say to the Chicago Cubs?” Answer: “Don’t do anything until I get back.”)

Losing didn’t dampen Ernie’s spirit, though. “Let’s play two!” became his well-quoted catchphrase. He loved playing the game, it was all about the game, win, lose, whatever. It was the friendly, positive spirit of competition that he most enjoyed. That spirit infused Cub fans, it seems. It lingers at Wrigley, and perhaps in a few other, sadly vanishing, ball fields today.

I wasn’t a natural Ernie Banks fan. Growing up near San Francisco, I was a Willie Mays guy. I resented anyone crowding Willie’s spotlight. (With some justification. In 1958, when Banks became the first player on a losing team to win an MVP, he hit .313. Willie hit .347 that year. Just saying). But I always respected Ernie Banks and enjoyed watching Cubs games on TV, amazed at this slim shortstop who could pretty much do it all.

I realized in a new way this week how much I admired, and will miss, Ernie Banks. It took a Super Bowl to do it.

First it was the sports media machine pumping out endless, rancorous stories about possible cheating in the NFL, in what’s being called “DeflateGate.” Then it was the Super Bowl media day circus where one player in particular—Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch—became the poster-child for today’s arrogant, self-obsessed, pampered, obscenely overpaid, and repugnant professional athletes by ignoring reporters’ questions by smugly repeating  just one phrase (“I’m just here so I won’t get fined”) for nearly five minutes.

Apparently for Mr. Lynch, and many other pro athletes today, the joy has gone out of the game. They put up with it, grab their paychecks, and fly off to the Bahamas or Vegas or wherever they go to spend that money. They certainly don’t want to play two.

So, thank you, Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, for doing what you did. And more important, for being who you were. Thank you for leaving a legacy that hopefully will not diminish with your passing. We need people like you today. More than we know.

[Mitchell here - Steve had this very funny article about Ernie Banks a few years ago - would that it were true!]

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Baseball Week: We miss you, Harmon

It's often said that baseball is the most lyrical of sports, and few writers can capture that lyricism better than our own Steve Harris, who, writing about the death of Minnesota Twins legend Harmon Killebrew, reminds us all of the emotions that the game can bring, and why baseball - unlike football - will always be the National Pastime, if not the National Obsession. 

It is Tuesday afternoon, October 7th. I am sitting here in an office at 9th and LaSalle in Downtown Minneapolis, on an absolutely gorgeous autumn day. From my window I see blue skies, puffy white clouds, and I hear that the temp is in the mid-70s. Fall weather in Minnesota just does not get better than this. What a day for a walk around Lake Harriet, coffee with a friend at an outside cafe on the Nicollet Mall, and finally, once again we can say this...a baseball game.

Or can we? The Minnesota Twins are in the playoffs. (Hats off to them for a fine season). The Yankees are in town. A beautiful, many say spectacular, new stadium, an open-air baseball field, (taxpayer funded, by the way) is sitting there ready for action. So, let's play ball. is the Yankees. It is the Era of Bud. It is National TV time. So the game today (as was last night's) will be played at...night.

Ugh. What a waste of a day so rare. How sad that the joys of baseball, a spring sport, more a summer sport, a fall sport, yes, but NOT a cold-weather sport, will not be on display on a day like this in Minneapolis. I hope it doesn't get too chilly. I hope we don't have the sights of players with knit-caps, heavy jackets and mittens like we've seen in those interminable Red Sox-Yankee playoffs.

Then again, I kind of hope that the Twins can win some games and the playoffs get extended, and we play into later October, and on a much colder night we get a blast of snow. I would like to see how Bud would handle that. Maybe he would lead a parade of players and fans and hot dog vendors back to the Dome. Might as well.

We have lost a treasure, fall baseball on a day of sunshine and blue skies, and I'm not sure we even know it.

Yes, Harmon, we miss you.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Baseball Week: Yes, yes, no, no

As we continue our salute to baseball's opening week, I'm reminded of the end goal for each team: the playoffs and, hopefully, the World Series. Back in 2010 the Phillies' Roy Halliday slew baseball's great white whale, the post-season no-hitter. It was only the second such time it had happened in baseball's long history, and as I wrote at the time, it becomes even more impressive the closer one looks at it.

There was, not surprisingly, only one topic of conversation around the sports water cooler this morning, that being Roy Halladay's no-hitter in Philadelphia’s opening game against Cincinnati yesterday. As just about everyone knows by now, Halladay’s was only the second no-hitter ever thrown in postseason play, joining Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

Oddly enough, this was the very thing I had been planning to write about tomorrow. Not Halladay's no-hitter, of course, since he hadn’t thrown it yet, but Larsen’s. October 8 is the 54th anniversary of Larsen’s perfecto, and for the hard-core baseball fan that date triggers a Pavlovian response in much the same way that July 4 or November 22 or December 7 do to the historian.*

* I don’t mean in any way to equate Larsen’s no-hitter with these other dates, some famous and some infamous. It’s just that if you say “October 8” to the aficionado, many of them would immediately respond “Larsen.” It just does.

I’ve long thought that Larsen’s performance was perhaps the most remarkable in the history of sports, or at least baseball. This piece by Cliff Corcoran lays it out very well – we’ve had postseason baseball since 1903, when the first World Series was played. From then to 1956, a span of 53 Series (there was none in 1904), you had a maximum of 371 games that could have been played. In all that time, there was only one no-hitter.

Since then, we’ve added a Championship Series in each league (starting in 1969), expanded it from five to seven games (in 1985), and added a Wild Card round (in 1995), meaning that in the 53+ years since Larsen, you’ve had a maximum of 1,245 games that could have been played, or almost four times the potential number since Larsen.* And in all that time, with all the opportunities we’ve given them, no pitcher was able to match Larsen until last night. If that doesn’t meet the definition of remarkable, I don’t know what does.

* I know, many if not most of these series went less that the maximum, but you get the point.  And anyway, I didn't have the time to count all the games.

And why should this be?

Well, one obvious reason is that pitchers aren't conditioned to go nine innings anymore.  Their charge is to get six or seven good innings, then turn it over to the bullpen.  Which means today's pitchers may not have the physical or psychological fitness to go the distance, even if they're being fueled by the adrenelin of a no-hitter.  Halladay led the league in complete games this season, and I don't think that's a coincidence.

Then there's the pressure of the post-season.  This seems to me to be the explanation that makes the most sense.  Just because we're told by the television people that the postseason is "a whole new ballgame" doesn't mean it isn't true.  The pressure of a short series, combined with the national spotlight, was bad enough before 24/7 sports channels came along - now, it's probably been magnified three or four times.

(There is a flip side to this, however, namely that the pressure can work both ways, producing performances that might be beyond the normal expectations from a given pitcher.  That was certainly the case with Larsen, who was little more than a journeyman either before or after his perfecto in the pivotal fifth game*, and it might have played to Halladay's advantage in the crucial opening game yesterday.**)

* With a series tied at two games apiece, as it was in '56, the fifth game is always pivotal.  You could trademark it.

** See above.

This morning I heard someone saying that, statistically, there have been too many no-hitters in the postseason, or at least more than the odds would suggest.  I know, that doesn't sound right at all.  But, according to the stats, .1% of all regular season games result in no-hitters, whereas the figure is .2% in the postseason.  Whatever.  I'd guess, if I had to, that it might have something to do with the number of bad teams playing bad games in the regular season.  One could argue, as I do, that if the best hitters make the postseason, that makes it harder to throw a no-no.  But you could also argue, I suppose, that having the best pitchers in the postseason makes a no-hitter more likely.

In the end, I think this is something where you have to selectively ignore stats.  Fact of the matter is that we've had more than one hundred years of postseason baseball, and until last night there had only been one no-hitter.  If we have two or three more in the next decade, maybe we'll have to revisit the whole thing.  But until and unless that happens, I'm sticking by my original thesis that Larsen's perfect game was the most remarkable, the greatest, pitching performance of all time.  A no-hitter in the World Series would have been incredible enough; Larsen's perfect game, the first in 34 years, defies description.

And that makes Halladay's perhaps the second greatest.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Baseball Week: The Cubs don't win the pennant!

As Baseball Week continues, a look back at a "This Just In" feature from a few weeks ago that's outdated now, but it does point out how remarkable last year's World Series was.

Cubs Take Field for Season Opener, Are Officially Eliminated From Pennant Race

(CHICAGO, April 1) – The Chicago Cubs were officially eliminated from the National League pennant race today, just moments after taking the field for their season opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Naturally it’s a disappointment,” Cubs skipper Mike Quade said in a subdued Cubs dugout just before the first pitch was thrown. “After all the hard work in the offseason, to see it end like that before it’s even begun is tough to take, you know?

“But I’m proud of them anyway,” he continued. “To go out there like that and give it their all, even knowing this is not their year, and they’ve still got six months to go, well, I tip my hat to them. It would be easy for them to just show up and go through the motions, pretend there’s nothing at stake, but they’re going to play like it was the first game of the season. Which is the same thing, I guess.”

“We’re professional ballplayers,” Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena said. “We take pride in wearing the Cubs uniform. Even though we’re going to miss the World Series for the 66th consecutive year, and fail to win it all for the 103rd straight season, you won’t see this team give up.”

Beat writer Paul Sullivan, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune, said that fans still had much to look forward to for the remainder of the season. “First of all, there’s the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, the most beautiful ballpark in America. The ivy covered walls, the hand operated scoreboard, the ghosts of all the hall of famers who’ve beaten the Cubs over the years. Every baseball fan should come to Wrigley at least once, even if the Cubs are out of town.

“But there’s so much more to seeing the Cubs play. Did I mention Wrigley Field?”

Quade said he’d use the remaining 161 games to give younger players a chance. “We’ll bring some of our youngsters up from Triple A and see what they have to offer. Sure, they’re probably playing on a better team with Des Moines, but once they’ve had a taste of major league baseball, or at least Cubs baseball, they won’t want to go back. We h

In a related development, the Cubs lost their season opener to Pittsburgh, 6-3.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Baseball Week: A team and its cat

In honor of baseball's Opening Week, I thought we'd take a look at some of the best of this blog's posts on America's Pastime. Today it's the story of a baseball team and its new owner, who just happens to be an ill-tempered cat.

Based on the novel by H. Allen Smith (one of the finest humorists of his time), Rhubarb tells the story of a yellow feral cat with a nasty disposition who's "adopted" by a wealthy businessman, T.J. Banner (Gene Lockhart, whom you might remember as the judge in Miracle on 34th Street). Banner, who's constantly surrounded by "yes" men, admires how the cat treats everyone with distain, rich and poor alike. This cat, he says, has spirit. He's a fighter, and if there's one thing T.J. Banner has always admired, it's a fighter. T.J.'s greedy daughter Myra thinks he's crazy, but his public relations man, Eric Yeager (Oscar-winner Ray Milland), affectionately tolerates the old man. It was Eric who was assigned to capture the cat from the golf course where he lived (stealing golf balls off the greens), and when Eric finally succeeds, he has the scratches to prove it.

Although Banner owns many successful businesses, his pride and joy is his baseball team, a bunch of losers named the Brooklyn Loons (read: Dodgers), managed by Len Sickles (William Frawley, Lockhart's political boss in Miracle on 34th Street). If only, Banner thinks, his team had the same fight his cat had, they might win for a change. After watching the cat trash his study, Banner decides to name him Rhubarb, after the term for a baseball imbroglio. (In one scene, trying to explain what the cat's name means, Eric explains: "Lady, you know what happens at a sale, when two women get hold of the same dress? THAT's a Rhubarb!")

After many years Banner dies and, to the amazement of his business associates and Myra (who has been fairly counting down the days to the old man's death), he leaves the balance of his estate, including the baseball team, to the only living thing that ever showed him trust and loyalty - Rhubarb. Realizing the limitations inherent in a cat running an empire, the will provides that Eric will act as Rhubarb's guardian. He's not sure at first, but when Myra attempts to murder Rhubarb, Eric remembers T.J.'s words that "if you're right, fight for it." Rhubarb's always been a fighter, which is what the old man loved about him, and Eric is determined to fight as well.

His biggest fight concerns the baseball team - the players, perhaps understandably, are reluctant to pay for a cat, even if he does own the team. Fans around the league meow at them, and an umpire even left a bowl of milk at home plate before the start of the game. The players are threatening to sit out the season and Eric, along with his fiancee Polly (Jan Sterling), manager Sickles' daughter, realize something has to be done. Eric convinces them that the miracle Boston Braves of 1914 - a team that rallied from last place on the 4th of July to win the World Series (true, by the way) - owed their success to a lucky yellow cat that served as their mascot, they start to have second thoughts. When the Loons' hitters come through in the clutch after having petted Rhubarb, the superstitious players become convinced: with Rhubarb on their side, they can do no wrong.

The Brooklyn team - now dubbed the "Rhubarbs" by the tabloids, with Rhubarb and Eric accompanying them to every game home and away - catches fire and wins the pennant. Now, they're prepared to face their archrivals, the New York club (read: Yankees) in the World Series. The entire city is electrified, and in the days leading up to the Series seemingly everyone in Brooklyn is placing bets on the Rhubarbs to win. The alarmed bookies calculate that if Brooklyn wins, there's no way they'll be able to cover their losses. Then one of them, Pencil Louie, strikes upon an idea - if something were to "happen" to the cat, it would almost certainly mean defeat for Brooklyn, and the bookies would save their skins.

Pencil Louie's first thought is simply to kill Rhubarb, but then he realizes there's money to be made - surely Myra would pay them to get rid of the cat. With Rhubarb thus out of the way, Myra gets her father's fortune, Brooklyn (and the people betting on them) loses, and the bookies get their necks out of the noose. In short order Rhubarb is catnapped, New York evens the series, and all of Brooklyn is in a panic. Eric and Polly launch a desperate search for the missing cat, even resorting to seeding the clouds with dry ice to cause a rainout that postpones Game 7 for another day.

In the end the good guys win, of course. Rhubarb is found, the bad guys are captured, and Brooklyn rallies to win the series. Eric and Polly marry, and Rhubarb is last seen with the female cat who's been sitting in the box behind Rhubarb with her lady owner throughout the season, trailing a litter of little kittens.

Rhubarb is a charming fantasy, featuring a top-notch performance by Milland (including a hilarious send-up of his drunk scene in The Lost Weekend), wild slapstick comedy, and Smith's satiric jabs at television and commercial sponsors (a pivotal moment in one game is interrupted for a "much more important" message from the ever-present Friendly Financial Company, whose commercials are a running joke during coverage of the games).

It tells of a time when baseball was an ingrained part of the American culture, when teams were part of the very fabric of the cities they played in (as the Dodgers were when they played in Brooklyn), and when the idea of a cat owner/mascot wasn't perhaps all that outrageous. And of course it's perfectly believable that baseball players, a superstitious lot since the game began, would become convinced that petting a cat before going to bat would bring them good luck.

Best of all is Rhubarb himself - one source says fourteen cats were used to portray him, with the prime cat being a tiger named Orangey. His transformation from feral loner to tycoon to good-luck charm is the stuff dreams are made of.

Smith's original book spawned two sequels, neither matching the charm and outrageousness of Rhubarb. As both novel and movie, it is the essential baseball story - the tale of a team and its lucky cat.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera, is generally considered a testiment to freedom. It tells the story of Leonore, a woman who disguises herself as a prison guard named "Fidelio" in order to rescue her husband from death in a political prison.

Beethoven struggled with this opera, including writing four different overtures to it before settling into a final version. It's a challenging opera, but seldom fails to stir. And since Leonore successfully frees her husband, it stands as an opera rareity: a drama with a happy ending!

In this clip, the great Christa Ludwig sings of the need to always retain hope - although she is close to despair, thoughts of her husband Florestan keep her going. Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin? ... Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern ["Scum! Where are you going? ... Come, hope, let the last star"]).

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Remembering Ted Kennedy

Honor Guard Accidentally Drops Ted Kennedy’s Casket in Chappaquiddick Water

(BOSTON, MA – August 30) What started out as a solemn day turned tragic Saturday when the honor guard escorting Senator Edward M. Kennedy to his final resting place took a wrong turn and accidentally dropped the Senator’s casket off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island.

The incident occurred as the hearse was transporting Kennedy to Logan Airport in Boston for the flight to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington. While en route, the hearse’s driver inexplicably took a wrong turn and detoured some 100 miles, including a ferryboat ride, before winding up on the bridge, which spans the island's Poucha Pond.

At that point, the back door of the hearse suddenly and without warning flew open, allowing the casket to fall out, skidding off the side of the bridge before flipping over and landing upside down in the water, where it remained visible for only a moment before tipping downward and sinking slowly to the bottom. Several members of the honor guard repeatedly dove into the water in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to free Kennedy’s trapped body from its watery grave.

Undertaker Richard Bruce, who supervised the arrangements for the late Senator’s funeral, remained cautiously optimistic. “Of course, this is a most unfortunate situation, most unfortunate” Bruce said. “We can only hope that the Senator’s mortal remains were able to find the air pocket that the Poseidon 3000 [casket] creates as a result of its patented hermetically sealed lid. It is, naturally, our finest model, and we are confident that its lacquered walnut and polished bronze exterior should be able to keep the water out of the plush velvet interior for several hours. Fortunately, we understand that the suit in which [Kennedy] was buried was made of wash-and-wear material.”

Sheriff Arch Brahmin, reporting from the scene of the accident, said a team of trained divers was preparing a search-and-rescue mission. He acknowledged, however, that the task would be made more difficult by the fact that the honor guard apparently waited sixteen hours before reporting the accident, passing several homes and a fire station without stopping to phone authorities and advise them of what had happened.

“It’s frustrating, sure, but you can’t prepare for everything,” Brahmin said. “After all, how many times does something like this happen?”

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Where have all the real men gone?

In one of Ah-nold's more lucid moments as governor of California, he disparagingly referred to his political opponents as "girly-men." I thought of this when reading Jay Nordlinger's hilarious excerpt from Toby Young's scathing attack on the girlification of men.  ere's the excerpt:

I went to a wedding recently at which the groom was an ex-public schoolboy in his twenties. No more prime specimen of girlie manhood are you likely to see. . . . He’d probably spent more getting his hair done than the bride had spent on her dress. It was stomach-churning.

Yet the effect of this wet noodle on the assembled women was electrifying. As he got up on stage and started telling his bride how much he loved her, bursting into tears within 30 seconds, they literally began to drool. For them, this Barbie Man was the new masculine ideal. And let me tell you, his bride was an absolute knockout. In the good old days, men would have conquered continents for less. Yet here she was, giving herself to a man she probably could have beaten in a fight.

As Judie said when I read this to her, "I'd hate to think this is the future of manhood. Makes you want to watch a truck commercial or something."

Beyond the entertainment factor from Young's sabre-wielding, there lies a more serious point: why? The answer, according to Young, is yet another disturbing product of the sexual revolution.  It's not just the "relentless feminist critique of masculinity that has been blaring out of our schools and universities since the 1960s."  That's a big part of it, but there's another, sobering element, that has taken its toll on traditional masculinity: that "women’s sexual liberation that has frightened the horses, not the endless theorizing that’s accompanied it. Men simply can’t deal with women expressing sexual desire — it reduces them to timid little mice."

Yes, the scourging of society as a result of the lovable 60s continues: it's the gift that keeps us giving, giving, giving - until all of our humanity has gone.

Originally published September 30, 2010

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Opera Wednesday

Robert Merrill and Roberta Peters had some serious star power. The late Peters, who made her Metropolitan Opera debut at the age of 20, was vivacious, cute, perky - and enormously talented. Merrill could do it all, from high opera to "Autumn Leaves" with Victor Borge, to singing the national anthem for his beloved New York Yankees. Together, they made for a dynamic duo both on- and off-stage (they were briefly married in the early 50s), and were fixtures on popular television, appearing often with stars such as Sullivan and Carson. Ah, those were the days.

Here they are singing "Dite alla giovine... Morrò!" from Verdi's La traviata. It's wonderful to see the delight the two of them have sharing the music and sharing each other.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The Timberwolves, journalism, and the end of democracy as we know it

This may be a bit convoluted, and I’ll ask you to hang in there with me on this, but I think that when I was watching the Minnesota Timberwolves game for a few minutes the other night, I noticed why democracy may be in great peril in this country.

As I clicked through channels I discovered the rebuilt Woofies enjoying their opening night festivities. The announcers (Tom Hanneman and Jim Petersen, but I don’t want to name any names) were ebullient and optimistic. At one point Hanneman even lauded the large and enthusiastic first game crowd, even as the camera shot showed two somewhat lethargic middle-aged guys surrounded by six empty seats. Whatever.

The announcer’s enthusiasm quickly started to grate on me, though, when a fairly nondescript layup by one of the new, nameless, faceless Wolves was hailed as a good reason why his contract had been extended by management just a few days earlier.

Then it hit me again, like I should have forgotten this for a second. These are not game announcers or sports journalists. They are paid PR hacks employed by the Wolves to put across their product (and hopefully fill a few more seats for the next game). The idea that you are going to get honest analysis went out the window a long time ago, and I think that window may now be shut forever.

And that’s what’s scary, because I don’t think any of us have the long-term will, energy or mental perseverance to keep making that distinction in today’s media. Is it possible that everything we are hearing is spin meant to sell products. I mean everything. That there really is NO honest, objective, journalism left, anywhere? (Help, I’m feeling pessimistic.) Forget sports, who really cares about where that mess is going, but what about in politics, and in civic debate, and in the things that really matter? (I almost added in religious life, but that’s a scary topic for another day).

So, my point, my question really, if you’d like to chime in, is are we getting the real scoop anywhere about anything? If we aren’t, if we’ve lost the objective power of a free, unbiased media, we’re in big trouble. I mean, big trouble. The whole thing about Jefferson and the newspapers, right?

What do you think?

(On a lighter note, before this new depressing thought gets too much attention, my announcer friends did add a smile before I found my remote. Mr. Petersen, who I believe graduated from some of our finest local schools, talked about one player suffering through, and I am sure I heard this, “a menagerie of injuries.” What exactly would that be, I wondered? My colleague Mr. H, the wunderkind with the steel-trap mind - whatever that means said, “well, maybe he had a charley horse. Followed by a calf pull.” Pretty bad, if it wasn’t so funny.

So I got to thinking, what other “animal” injuries do people have? Anybody have any ideas?)

Thanks for listening.

Originally published November 6, 2007

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Opera Wednesday

This week we take a look at Gaetano Donizetti's masterpiece Lucrezia Borgia, based on the play by Victor Hugo.

The real-life Lucrezia Borgia has not been served well by history, and Donizetti's opera plays into many of the myths about the real Lucrezia. However, this is Opera Wednesday, not History Wednesday, and so we'll go with the Lucrezia-poisoner version.

And what a version. This clip from the stunning finale features the great La Stupenda Joan Sutherland as Lucrezia, and Alfredo Kraus as her son, Gennaro. Now, if you like your opera full of mistaken identity and accidental death, then I guarantee you'll love this. If, on the other hand, you prefer hard-boiled realism - well, why are you in the opera house in the first place? Just sit back and enjoy two great singers in this 1980 performance from Covent Garden in London. Richard Bonynge, Sutherland's husband, is the conductor.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Throwback Thursday: What is it with the pope, anyhow?

We warned people about the current Pope years ago. As the Catholic Church continues to splinter, let's look back at Mitchell's article from September, 2015.

The Pope is in town, in case you haven't heard. Not in Dallas, where I am, but out father East.  There will be a fair amount of fuss being made, much of it over how Good Pope Francis is ushering in the new progressive nirvana, and probably even more about how the evil conservative Catholics, not to mention the evil Republicans, are busy slamming him.

Of course, that's the typical MSM slant.  It is true that many Republicans disagree with the Pope on matters environmental and economic, and it's also true that a lot of conservative - more likely traditionalist - Catholics have been having kittens over his papacy.  If you're a regular reader, you know I haven't been too happy about this papacy either, having gone so far as to suggest that if I were considering converting today (instead of twenty years ago when I did convert) I probably wouldn't do it because I would be looking at a Church that might have truth on its side, but didn't appear to stand for anything.

Now, it's very easy to find political commentary picking a bone with the Pope.  For instance, George Will had this to say:

Pope Francis embodies sanctity but comes trailing clouds of sanctimony. With a convert’s indiscriminate zeal, he embraces ideas impeccably fashionable, demonstrably false and deeply reactionary. They would devastate the poor on whose behalf he purports to speak — if his policy prescriptions were not as implausible as his social diagnoses are shrill.

Meanwhile, at the Weekly Standard, Jonathan Last asks if we should see the Pope as "Menace or Farce" (h/t Fr. Z)

For instance, the Holy Father seems to have a habit of appearing to endorse all sorts of left-wing political causes. There was the time he posed with environmental activists holding an anti-fracking T-shirt. And the time he posed for pictures holding a crucifix made from a hammer and a sickle. And the time he held up a poster calling for the British to hand the Falkland Islands back to Argentina. In each instance, the official Vatican response has been to suggest that Francis didn’t mean to endorse anything because he’ll pretty much smile and pick up anything you hand him, like some sort of consecrated Ron Burgundy.

Now, it is true that there's a ideological dimension to this; there's no question that the Pope is interjecting himself into a political discussion, not merely pointing out the existence of a problem, but offering explicitly political solutions, rather than charging the various legislatures with finding a solution.

There is, however, a spiritual aspect to this as well, and one can make a compelling case that in this religious, as opposed to political, dimension, the Pope continues to fall short.  The website The Federalist had a very good piece on this Monday, with Joy Pullmann writing, among other things, this:

I’m not sure who Pope Francis’s religious advisors are, but it seems they’ve forgotten the Gospel isn’t directly aimed at helping the poor or averting supposed environmental disasters. The Gospel is centrally about saving our eternal souls, about addressing spiritual—not material—poverty. Yes, the material world is broken because of sin, and it will be restored after the Last Day, but that’s an effect, and not the focus of scripture. What’s primary is our souls, not our pocketbooks.

She goes on to write:

In the course of loving our neighbors, as the Bible commands, of course we should seek to meet their physical needs, both through and beyond seeking to meet their spiritual needs. Acknowledging the truth that the world will always contain hungry people is not an excuse for not feeding the people in your life whom you have a duty to feed.

Maybe Pope Francis should welcome the environmental apocalypse he thinks is coming. But the human condition of sin has ensured that everyone cannot be rich, healthy, and a lover of God. It’s sad, but true. We will never achieve utopia in this world. That’s kind of the central story arc of the Bible: How humans screwed themselves and the whole world up, and how Jesus has and will ultimately put things to right. Getting all the way to a perfect eternity, however, requires first an apocalypse.

So maybe Pope Francis should welcome the environmental apocalypse he thinks is coming. That’s partly a joke and partly serious, because every time I see another Planned Parenthood butchering video I am ready for Jesus to take me and my kiddos right up to Paradise and end this sick, mad world. But at the very least, Francis could do a better job communicating what my Catholic friends keep insisting to me he really does mean.

I get weary reading all this; it grieves me to see the Church that means so much to me disintegrating like this.  I'll say it again: Pope Francis could not be doing a better job driving the Church apart if he'd been sent by the Soviet Union (or Satan, take your pick) to ruin everything accomplished by the last two popes.  And I get just as weary being reminded by henny-penny hand-wringers that you're not allowed to criticize the Pope.  As a matter of fact, that really ticks me off.

Look; one should always be careful talking about the Pope.  The papacy is a divinely-ordained institution, and that's all there is to it.  Not only do I accept that, I wholeheartedly embraced it at the time of my conversion.  I believe it today.  But it also has to be said that the College of Cardinals don't always choose the right man for the office; anyone who thinks that the Holy Spirit divinely chooses the pope not only denies the existence of man's free will, he overlooks such occupants of Peter's Chair as the Borgia Popes.  In other words, one must respect the office, but there is no reason not to look at the specific occupant with a cocked eye.

Let's take this a step further, though.  Not only the papacy, but the basic clerical structure of the Church - bishops, priests and deacons - exists in the Bible.  What goes for the pope goes for them as well; respect the office, if not the occupant.

However, when it gets to the Curia, the governing organization of the Church - well, that's a man-made institution.  No only is there nothing divine about it, even the popes themselves have had to keep a very close eye on it from time to time for their own benefit, not to mention well-being.  The Curia, and the upcoming Synod of Bishops, is fair game as far as I'm concerned - again, as long as you remain somewhat respectful in your words.  Just as I get turned off by old ladies taking me to task for criticizing the pope, I also get torqued by people who behave like rabid Pavlovian dogs whenever Francis' name is mentioned.

Therefore:  I have great concerns that Pope Francis is doing dramatic damage to the Church.  He disrespects those who have fought long and hard to defend tradition; his recent decision on annulments is nothing short of indefensible; his off-the-cuff statements are tiring at best and alarming at worst.  We like to talk about the "brand" today, and Francis has weakened the Catholic "brand" to an almost crippling degree.  Those who are the most impressed are those least likely to come back to the Church, or to defend the Church's traditional teachings.  Those most disregarded, most dismissed by him, are the ones who have fought the hardest and believe most fervently in Christ's teachings.  I don't know about you, but buddying up to your enemies and dissing your friends is not my idea of a successful business plan.

Francis' papacy has been a disaster, and if the upcoming Synod weakens the family further, as many expect it to, going back on two millennia of Church teaching (as well as Christ's words), then we see a real possibility of schism, and if that happens then we're really going to have some questions to ask.  All we know is that at the Last Judgment, we'll all be called to account for my actions.  I will not fare well when that happens, but at least I'd like to think I've tried to defend the Church, in my words if not always my actions.  However, the man who calls himself a "loyal son of the Chuirch" will have to do the same, and all in all I think I'd rather be in my shoes than his.

There's bound to be more to come on this, both from the Pope's trip and from me.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Opera Wednesday

Drew here, pinch-hitting this week. It's been awhile, so I might as well do something easy, and what could be easier than going with one of the best? Here's the great Leontyne Price singing "Pace, pace, mio Dio" from Verdi's La Dorza del Destino on a 1967 broadcast of The Bell Telephone Hour. Donald Voorhees is the conductor.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Regietheater on the Silver Screen?

Controversy has erupted, as you might expect, over Disney's live-action retelling of Beauty and the Beast (see this article for the reasoning why I use "retelling" and not remake) over a controversial scene involving a character that led one drive-thru theater in Alabama to refuse airing it out of respect to the theatergoers, many of whom were part of the 81% that voted a marriage definition that New Yorkers did not approve, and erased on their whim, creating an arrogance that reminded Americans of the House of Hanover that led to the Declaration of Independence.

But why the controversial erotic scene was the larger question.  We knew it was the Left's way of social engineering in the theater.  Just last week, Disney's ABC aired a television special that glorified the erotic liberty lobby and how they relied on their elites to overturn the laws of the nation, creating in effect a federal Reynolds case where only the large urban enclaves of the Left had a voice, erasing the rest of the nation from having a voice in the public debate over issues.  Three days after attending the Renée Fleming recital at the Peace Center, the GLOW Lyric Theatre in the very city performed on Valentine's Day, no less, a concert celebrating the victories of the perversion movement, titled by the codewords of the movement, that throws Christians to the Lions with their language (the title is propaganda that I shall not mention it by name).  Antonin Scalia noted that the signature of erotic liberty was determined by a few cities, a patrician group that was out of touch with the rest of the nation, especially with Protestants (let alone conservative evangelicals, which form majorities in many states) not represented by the judiciary that imposed its agenda on that group, "no social transformation without representation."  Only the voices of the elites mattered.

This goes to the real issue with the movie in question.  It was, as that St. Valentine's Day piece performed by the theater company also fits, a form of regietheater, the director's theater that has been responsible for the worst hacks of opera that we have long referenced.  We wrote "Saving Opera from Itself," about the issue from an opera reference, and cited Heather MacDonald's "The Abduction of Opera" in the article.  When reading the article in preparation for this commentary, I saw in both the lyric company and the movie examples of the idea of a "superior moral understanding" of the director.  But it also fits within the idea of art as shock value.

The defining characteristic of the sixties generation and its cultural progeny is solipsism. Convinced of their superior moral understanding, and commanding wealth never before available to average teenagers and young adults, the baby boomers decided that the world revolved around them. They forged an adolescent aesthetic—one that held that the wisdom of the past could not possibly live up to their own insights—and have never outgrown it. In an opera house, that outlook requires that works of the past be twisted to mirror our far more interesting selves back to ourselves. Michael Gielen, the most influential proponent of Regietheater and head of the Frankfurt Opera in the late seventies and eighties, declared that “what Handel wanted” in his operas was irrelevant; more important was “what interests us . . . what we want.”

It did not matter to them that the nation rejected their values.  Rather, they forced it with their elites, and now are celebrating such imposition of their degenerate standards by force-feeding down theatergoers, similar to what operagoers have been seeing with the regietheater movement. Regietheater as social change to force down the progressive values rejected by voters and moviegoers goes along with the attitudes of the entire movement.  In both the GLOW Lyric Company and the Beauty and the Beast situations, both qualify as regietheater with their intent to impose their values on an audience that rejects such.

Has regietheater created the worst movies and television shows of our times by forcing down every left-wing social agenda on us?  Is it time we defund government art, as it has proved itself to be at the root of regietheater, and the shock value?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

And the winner isn't...

When you look back at it, I don't suppose anyone should be surprised at how the Oscars ended on Sunday. After all, the Hollywood left has spent the last three months trying to pretend that the presidential election results didn't really happen, and that if they just opened up a different envelope everything would be different. So who can blame them for what happened? They were just acting out of habit...

They call that a "worship experience"?

Seen inside a church bulletin:

"The worship experience will be led by (various rock bands and singers' names have been removed)."

Seriously, churches call a rock concert a "worship experience". I cannot see how this is a "worship experience" after noticing this video with music louder than a fighter jet taking off at the Air Reserve Base just a few miles down up US 178 from our home. Listen to the above and ponder: is this a worship experience or is it just another rock concert?  This has all the marks of the latter.

I cannot see any "worship experience" from people who stand up to loud rock music for three hours. Compare that to singing sacred music of a didactic nature, primarily from an organ or piano.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Opera Wednesday

Victor Borge, the Great Dane, offers us a little opera comedy - and, let's be honest, who among us couldn't use a little laughter nowadays? The brave Marilyn Mulvey accompanies him.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: incident at the Renée Fleming recital

The recent recital at the Peace Center in Greenville featuring Renée Fleming that I attended (also scratched her name from the "best singer I've yet to see" list since I have now seen her;  that honour goes to Анна Нетребко) also caused a microaggression by the Left after I entered my seat that cost only one Andrew Jackson (a twenty dollar ticket is still better than a sixty dollar ticket that's 150 feet away for a mega-pop star).  In time, you must show the Left a taste of their own medicine.  As I introduced myself to a few people around our seating area before the event, the young woman next to me introduced a second woman as "my wife".

That was an automatic red light district.  That is not possible -- a woman cannot take a wife (only a man can).  Citing Sections 20-1-10 ("No woman shall marry . . . another woman.") and 20-1-15 ("A marriage between two persons of the same sex is null and void ab initio."), I knew this wasn't real.  This was offensive to anyone, especially the seventy-eight percent in this state that made their vote heard in 2006.  To take from Leviticus 18:22, "(A man) shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."  In this case, a woman shall not like with womankind, as with mankind.  As Romans 1:27 noted, these two women left the natural use of the man, burned in their lust one towards another, and women with women working that was unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Thankfully someone had a seat in another section that his daughter was to use but she had been given a ticket to move up to the best sections, and I took that seat in a lower section.  I was pleased that I took the seat, since these people need to learn they are offending The Seventy-Eight Percent with their actions.  Why is it these crybabies get to dictate their mandate to everyone else?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Flashback Friday: The legacy of Steve Jobs

Bruce Frohnen has some thoughts on Steve Jobs, and they're not pretty.*  Example:
To put it bluntly (as is my wont) what I have read about him leads me to see him as a mean-spirited narcissist who translated a certain aesthetic sensitivity and capacity for bullying and hucksterism into a colossal waste of money and collective time, further separating Americans from one another in pursuit of a false control over their environment. As bad, his personality and corporate ethos furthered highly damaging political and economic structures of a kind best described as libertarian socialism, in which corporations and rich individuals behave without conscience, expecting the social programs they vote for but seek to escape funding to pick up the pieces from their own “creative” destruction. I also see him as in many ways a sad character, emotionally and spiritually stunted in part because of the failings of the infantilizing environment in which he grew up. 
*(H/T - I wish I could remember.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste.)

Frohnen looks at Jobs through the lens of what it means to grow up as a spoiled child in the culture of the '60s and '70s, with virtually no restrictions on his behavior.  "Jobs was, frankly, coddled. His father sacrificed his career, moved, rearranged his workspace, and berated Jobs’ teachers, all to see to it that his precious genius would be given the best experiences and life chances possible."  The parents allowed him to quit going to church (not surprising, since "too many parents were mostly going through the motions" themselves), indulged him, sacrificed to give him whatever he wanted.  It was, in other words, all-too typical of the lifestyle one finds in California, "a place people moved to get more money and better weather, and where being the first one on the block to recycle, or get a fancy car, was more important than staying married and taking care of your kids, let alone showing common decency."  More:
Eventually, Jobs moved out of his hovel with the drug den in the attic, travelling to the commune (probably still there—did I mention Reed is in Portland?), to his parents’ house, and to India. He got a girl pregnant along the way, denied paternity, encouraged her to get an abortion (she didn’t), then walked away, still denying paternity for some years after. In other words, he engaged in all the usual “hi-jinks” and “mind expanding experiences” one associates with the adolescent mindset of the counterculture.
I've never been a Steve Jobs fan; visionary though he may have been in certain areas, I always thought it came at too high a price, and was of dubious merit.  I admit, I've got an iPhone and an iPod, and my next laptop is probably a Mac.  Nevertheless, as I've said before, the ends seldom ever justify the means.  So it's no surprise that I'd read Frohnen's words with relish.  But to simply revel in insulting Jobs because I didn't like him is pretty hollow unless it can be put in context - I prefer, whenever possible, to have a good reason for not liking someone - and this Frohnen does.

Because in the end, miserable person though Jobs may have been, one can't help but feel a certain sympathy for him, because he was so obviously a product of his time: let down by his parents, indulged by society, free to come up with brilliant ideas (many of which have had devastating consequences), but free also to live a lifestyle that demeans his humanity.  Whether looking at free sex, drugs run rampant, the fruits of Vatican II, or so many of the things that have come out of the era, it's clear that what we are left with is the wages of sin.  And, as Frohnen concludes, "Thanks in no small part to Steve Jobs, his fan clubs, and his like-minded competitors this is, potentially, our future. And we should be very, very afraid."

Originally published May 26, 2014

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Opera Wednesday

One of the loveliest moments in opera: the unforgettable, bittersweet trio that concludes Richard Strauss' magnificent Der Rosenkavalier. This clip from 1982 features Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Judith Blegen, and Tatiana Troyanos. The conductor is James Levine, with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Figures lie, liars figure

Those of you who've read the TV blog know that I'm entering a chaotic week, preparing to move from Texas back to Minnesota, and I'll be honest that I've got my hands full over the next few days. My updates here will be infrequent and short, but I'm not leaving you in the lurch altogether.

Tonight, I'll just pause a moment to offer this observation. You've doubtless read in the last few days about how President Trump's approval ratings are way down, that people don't approve of his policies during the first ten days of his administration. What I find interesting about this is that these conclusions are being drawn based on the most recent polls.

When last we read about polls, it mostly had to do with how they'd been totally discredited following their disastrous predictions of a Clinton landslide, and how their methodology would have to be completely reexamined. There was even some thought that, in today's world of cellphones and political intimidation, it might be impossible to ever conduct accurate polls on a widespread basis.

My question, therefore, is this: are the polls indicating Trump's unpopularity the same ones that predicted his defeat? If so, why should we believe them now any more than then? Has something changed? Are we to believe they've been totally redone in two months? Or is the media simply counting on our short attention spans to have forgotten all about those old polls? Considering the job the media's done lately, I see no reason to take them seriously now. Do you?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Opera Thursday: the return of the wanderer

The aria "Cara amata regina" from Monteverdi's 1639 opera ll Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria (The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland), one of the first modern operas. Janet Perry and Peter Keller are the singers; the early music specialist Nikolaus Harnoncourt is the conductor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Excessive control by the fringe left

Fringe organisations pushing extremists views have become rampant, and in the outgoing Administration have become the ones in charge.

We have seen it with the fringe sexual organisations, first with a “thought crimes” law (PL 111-84), then converting the military to social engineering for sexual perversion (PL 111-321), then an executive order written to target Exxon Mobil shareholders after 15 consecutive wins over New York City's retirement system demanding the company install SOGI policies (sexual orientation and gender identity;  I voted against the said policies when it came to a vote each year), and the signature of this Administration, erasing marriage laws because they they believe those with a Biblical worldview must be erased by having the erotic liberty agenda forced down through packed courts after they lose at the ballot box and the legislature;  Obergefell was a federal Reynolds case where the large liberal urban centres gained absolute control of legislation via court order (in Reynolds, states were given to the largest cities, which creates crises in those states controlled by a few cities as Chicago, MSP, New York City, LA/SF, et al, are examples), and the entire nation is not allowed to have a say on issues based on false pretenses that these crybabies out of touch with the supermajority are given superior rights to others.  They have also legalised certain varieties of child abuse (child not having a father and a mother, but two fathers or two mothers), and have gained effective control of the nation by force using the courts.

We have seen it with the race baiters and the BLM lobby, also known as the “NWA Foxtrot the Police” lobby for the song that is their effective mantra (an extremely racist and obscene song), intentionally weakening the police force with riots based on their own feelings that they should not be responsible for .  They believe in a “West Coast Offense” feel for police.  They can force the police to be defenceless while they have rights to take down our bravest, as we see in their attitudes blocking roads when they do not have it their way.  The consequences of such anti-police attitudes have resulted in more police deaths and shootings, and an increasing hatred of police.  Why this attitude?

From race and sex baiting, now we have seen it with Feld Entertainment's announcement that they will shut down the Ringling circuses they have owned for nearly 50 years.  The Feld organisation claims the fringe animal rights groups helped cause the decline in ticket sales.  That forces me to ask the same question as I have noted earlier here – why have radical fringe groups gained control of the country.  They seized our Constitutions, they seized our police, they seized our industry, and now they are shutting down family entertainment and animal shows.  These animal rights activists will target the rodeo and PBR next, then polo, equestrian, and horse racing.  Do they understand the history of animals in competition?  Do they even want people to appreciate animals and their abilities?  They will call anything with animals abuse if it does not fit within their own worldview of not allowing them to sit in the sun and be friends with humans.  They want a primitive view of animals and probably would have wanted to ban domestication of cats.  These fringe activists do not want children to appreciate animals where they can be seen locally and not travel 10,000km to see them attacking other animals.  Meanwhile, Feld will market sensually dressed leather-clad women holding 30-second boards at motorcycle events.

Does this demise of the circus show a worldview where every fringe group – sexual perversion, fringe anti-Trump people, animal rights, Hollywood, and the rest – have rights to overrule the majority?

Oh, by the way.  The media needs to get a grip with President Obama's final days commuting Bradley Manning's sentence.  He was a traitor to the country, and he is being rewarded primarily because of his "Golddust" gimmick.  If he wants to claim to be Chelsea, wear the blue Yokohama Tyres kit and be a supporter of a Premier League club. Bradley, you are a man and you have the X and Y chromosomes.  Quit with Dustin Rhodes' gimmick.  Even Dustin's brother Cody hates a similar gimmick given to him and left WWE for that very reason.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A meditation on 20 years of life

Saturday, January 7th's state March for Life marked my 20th time involved in this event, but it was the coldest (and least attended) one where tempers flared after Friday's rain cost me most of the Clover Wolf dinner (and the awards), and the March the next day was very short (less than 30 minutes for the rally and) and the lowest attended march in my 20 years.  The snow distracted so many, as when I drove to the CrossFit box that morning for a morning workout it was starting to snow, but the snow disappeared and the sun broke out while the snow melted.  A church in the Upstate had planned to bring their garage band (as I've known it to be) but they were snowed out, and the youth did not arrive until considerably later.

What I fear now is that the left-wing counterprotest that organisers plan for January 21 (a day after the inauguration of Mr. Trump) for baby murder, sexual perversion, and other activists may draw a larger crowd than our crowd, with the cry that Los Angeles and San Francisco should run the entire country.

But as we look back at my 20 Years of Life, the intrigue from that very first March at Finlay Park (the State House was undergoing construction at the time) as a college student has now spread to marching annually.  My very first March was known for a pop star's appearance as a speaker, whose failure at awards shows was a national story because that artist had reached the level of John Elway, Dale Earnhardt Snr, and Susan Lucci, all of whom had failed to reach the big prize in their careers (within a span of 17 months, all four had clinched the lucrative prize that they had failed to reach in their illustrious careers),  though she did sing one of her big hits.   I found a cover of that hit as sung in a church, and it's the header to this piece.  Can you identify who the singer was, and what the song is?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Throwback Thursday: On the real persecution

At the risk of being disowned by my fellow orthodox Catholic friends, I picked up a copy of Rolf Hochhuth’s infamous play The Deputy a couple of weeks ago at a used book store.  It was no great revelation to me; I’ve read it before, and I bought it on this occasion as a research aid for a writing project that you may or may not ever hear about again.  It went on the bookshelf, between The Complete Works of Ayn Rand and How to Become a Libertarian in Six Easy Steps.

As a work of fiction likely to be taken as fact by readers and viewers, The Deputy is little more than a slanderous piece of Communist propaganda, deliberately promoted to tarnish the reputation of Pius XII through lie and innuendo.  And over the decades since it was published in the early ‘60s, it has indeed gone a long way to smear a man who, in the immediate aftermath of WW2, had been praised by Jews and Christians alike for his efforts to save Jewish lives while in a delicate position.  Evidence has since been uncovered linking Hochhuth with East German intelligence, and it’s likely that the whole thing was part of an orchestrated plot to undermine the Church.

It’s also not that well-written; far too polemical and strident, not to mention the slander I mentioned earlier (which, I guess, means I shouldn’t have to mention it again).  As a play, though, at least in written form, it has some intriguing qualities.  For one thing, Hochhuth’s prose stage instructions go on and on, sometimes for pages.  They’re obviously meant to be more than just directions; indeed, they provide background and commentary in such depth that they become an integral part of the story.  If you’re attending it as a performance without having the book in front of you, there’ll be so much left out that you won’t really receive the full impact.*  With some judicious editing, it would be reminiscent of a book I enjoyed quite a bit, Michael Herr’s Walter Winchell – a prose novel written in the form of a screenplay, complete with descriptions of fade-ins and fade-outs, camera cuts, and the like.

*Of course, there are many who’d argue that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

If there’s one redeeming factor in my purchase, aside from the research aspect (which has already borne fruit), it’s that I bought it second-hand, which means that neither Hochhuth, his publisher, nor anyone else connected with The Deputy made any money off of me.  Had I been forced to pay full price, I probably would have had to make a trip to the confessional.

There is, however, one thing I’d like to note in favor of The Deputy, although it has nothing to do with the book itself.  It came to me as I was driving in this morning, pondering the Christian persecution that seems to be in America’s immediate future.  Oh, I don’t necessarily mean a persecution on the scale of the Holocaust; it’s more subtle and insidious than that.  It’s the persecution occurring when an individual refuses to conform to the new social order and realize that religion is best kept hidden away in a dark corner, not to be brought out into polite company.  You’re OK if you want to cling to your superstitions, just don’t do it where you can be seen, or in a way that might influence public policy.

It might not be as pronounced as wearing a yellow Star of David, at least not at first.  But when you’re queried at work about political beliefs that have nothing to do with your job, when you can be forced to step down from a job or sell a company because of contributions you’ve made to various organizations, when the government can try to force companies to fund insurance coverage for acts that violate their own religious beliefs – well, you fill in the blanks.

Eventually it spreads.  The skeptic might suggest that, in a free-market economy such as ours, anyone confronted by religious discrimination is at liberty to start their own company, hire people who agree with you, and so on.  But when the prospective business isn’t able to get funding because lending institutions won’t provide it to those of a certain ideological or theological bent, when the business can’t attract customers because of intimidation tactics waged by those for whom freedom of speech applies in only one direction, when the burdens placed by government on the business force an owner to choose between conscience and profit – well, you try explaining it to someone who still has to put food on the table for a wife and children.  There’s more than one form of persecution, and sometimes the unbloody ones are every bit as painful and damaging.  They don’t attack the body, at least not outwardly, but they chip away at the soul.

Which leads me back to The Deputy.  Hochhuth’s claim is that Pius allowed political and financial considerations to prevent him from taking a stronger stance against Nazi persecution of the Jews.  And for all of his preaching, there’s no doubt that Hochhuth’s words (if they’re sincere and not simply a propaganda tool) show a great deal of compassion for the plight of the Jews during WW2.  If he really means what he says, if his fictional Fr. Riccardo (based, supposedly, on St. Maximillian Kolbe) really exemplifies, in his contempt for Pius, a desire to empty himself out for those being persecuted, then one can at least begin to understand the depth of abandonment that the Jews must have felt back then.  To have the entire world abandon you, turn its back on you and ignore what’s being done to you, and then to have the man who carries the greatest amount of moral authority remain silent* - well, that truly speaks to the dark night of the soul.

*To be clear once again: despite Hochhuth’s claim that the play was “ein christliches trauerspiel,” that is, a Christian tragedy, I believe it to be a smear job backed by the KGB, with no intent of sincerity.  However, as Caiaphas discovered (John 11:50), anyone can be an inadvertent prophet, no matter how much the thought might horrify them.

And so, as we enter the once and future persecution, I will put that hat on and look toward Rome and its bishop.  Can you see what is happening here, or are your eyes only on the refugees and the dissenters?  Do you feel the pain that so many are feeling, the choices that are having to be made, the sense of despair that rises, or are you more interested in kissing babies and playing the role of the kindly, benign father?  Are you prepared to confront a powerful government of an increasingly post-Christian nation that wants to marginalize Christianity and its beliefs in the name of progress and majority rule?  Are you ready to speak out for those who have no voice, to show the truth to a world that prefers not to see?

Are you aware of how high the stakes are, of how immigration and social justice and wealth redistribution and all the rest are of no consequence without this basic freedom?

In other words, are you ready to interfere?

Or, like Hochhuth’s fictional Pius, are you all-too willing to allow worldly considerations to influence you to look the other way?

Originally published July 21, 2014
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