Thursday, June 22, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The death of opera

We have discussed here the Adams opera The Death of Klinghoffer, built around the 1985 seajacking of the Achille Lauro that lead to the death of 69-year old Leon Klinghoffer by Arafat-aligned Palestine Liberation Front terrorists. Paul Greenberg has made serious comments about the pro-terrorist angle of the opera.

It would be right in line with our morally neutral era, with its aversion to the judgmental, its fear of taking a stand between right and wrong, good and evil.

(T)hose of us who are disgusted by its taste in this instance, and its willingness to lend itself to the most dehumanizing propaganda, have a right to speak up, too. As crowds of New Yorkers have done outside the Met. We have more than a right to speak up when evil is cosmeticized, even romanticized. We have a duty.

Mr. Greenberg's column also compared the opera to the works of pro-Fuehrer filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, and had serious words at the end that had me thinking seriously about our nation's future.

Those of us disgusted by this libretto can only echo the accusation that the opera's Marilyn Klinghoffer hurls at the captain of the Achille Lauro, who's been respectfully and even sympathetically negotiating with the murderers aboard his ship. When the ever-neutral captain must tell her that that her husband has been murdered, and his wheelchair-bound body thrown into the sea, she shrieks at him: "You embraced them!" Which is what the Metropolitan Opera now has done, too.

Art seemingly has become a propaganda piece to advance certain causes embraced by a tiny minority that few support, but they are using their platform of the stage to advance the propaganda.  It is working well in various leftist issues, whether it is cannabinoids or criminalising Christianity, or other social causes.  The Bohemians are sadly in control.  That is the a thought considering what the creator of three popular ABC dramas that air on Thursday night is promoting.  It's everywhere on HBO, Showtime, and Netflix.  They need the propaganda to advance what most oppose.

Originally published November 11, 2014

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Opera Wednesday

Sorry for the more-or-less consistent absence from the blog lately; it's a case of not having enough time, what with It's About TV! and the parallel work I'm doing on a TV book. I feel as if I've been behind for so long, I'm just starting to catch up. I hope you'll see me back here more often, but if you go to It's About TV!, you'll see me all the time!

At any rate, I was inspired to look at today's choice because it was on the Met Opera channel on Sirius. It's Igor Stravinsky's opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex, which at the Met was presented as part of a Stravinsky triple-bill, the other two pieces being the ballet Le Sacre du Printemps (better known as "The Rite of Spring"), and the short opera, Le Rossignol (The Nightingale).

Oedipus Rex, based on the familiar Greek tragedy, is unusual in that it is sung in Latin, and has a non-singing narrator, who presents commentary in the vernacular of the audience. I admit to being a big admirer of Stravinsky's work, and Oedipus Rex is no exception - it's modern, but with a classical touch (or classical with a modern touch, if you prefer). Here is the entire performance, running a little under an hour, with tenor Philip Langridge, soprano Jessye Norman, and baritone Bryn Terfel. The conductor is Seiji Ozawa. There are no subtitles, but if you're at all familiar with the legend, I don't think you'll need them.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The next one in isn’t always the best call

A recent discussion locally about the resignation of a baseball coach who happened to succeed directly a legend reminded me this was a problem in college basketball numerous times with successors to Dean Smith, John Thompson, John Wooden, and other notable leaders.

Television has had that issue directly also, most notably, with the recent announcement that Sony and Turner Broadcasting are planning to do a revival of a 1972-75 (network) and 1977-86 (syndicated) game show (with another variant slightly different in 1990-91). Calvin Broadus will host what they say will be a reimagined show, but will turn away from what the Barry Family (which did the 1990 "definitions" format that later adopted parts of the classic format) had done in all three versions. However, it was the 1977-86 version where this problem that is prominent with coaches took flight.

As The Joker's Wild was continuing its successful run as a Barry-Enright Production, Jack Barry had turned 63 in an era when 65 was a retirement age. In preparation for that, he groomed Wisconsin's Jim Peck for the future transition with an occasional week of hosting during the next three seasons, with the plan being Barry would host one more full season after turning 65. That ensuing season, which he intended to be his final, would include a plan that many stations in the syndication world would see that Barry would start the episode by formally turning over the show to Peck in September 1984. Unfortunately, Barry, who was 66, died in May 1984, after his last show was taped and preparing for his formal departure on the next taping, with the successor he and his producer, Ron Greenberg, had planned to take over. Dan Enright, in one of the worst moves in television, decided to deviate away from Barry's plan and hire Bill Cullen to host what would be the final two seasons, effectively spelling the end of Barry-Enright.

Wink Martindale, who was the other host in the syndication double of Joker's Wild and Tic-Tac-Dough, remembered Barry a few years ago. Ironically, he left Tic-Tac-Dough after Enright's actions, where the show lasted just one season with Jim Caldwell.

Jim Peck later returned to Milwaukee in public affairs, and recently retired from radio. For the sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address, he recorded this piece as part of its observance.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Does terrorism have to be the “New Normal”?

Editor's Note: Today, for the first time in a long time, I have the chance to introduce to you a new member of the “In Other Words” family! If you read It’s About TV, you’ll recognize David Hofstede as the author of the Comfort TV blog one of the best classic TV sites around. As you will discover, however, David has insights and opinions that run far beyond the world of TV, and he will make for a valuable addition to the team. It’s my pleasure to welcome him to the site, and to present him to you for your consideration.

Over the past few years there have been several prominent news stories about police officers shooting African-American citizens – many of whom were unarmed at the time.

Varied opinions have emerged as a response: some see this as an epidemic of irresponsible authority, and a reminder of the racism they see inherent in our culture. Others find an attempt to conflate isolated incidents into a national trend, and point to federal and state crime statistics that suggest no such pattern exists.

But here’s one reaction you won’t hear from either camp: “This is just something to which we all have to adjust. This is the price we must pay for having a police force.”

Can you imagine the outraged response if some sheriff or politician advanced that outlook? Unacceptable, their communities would say. This cannot stand. We have to do something, so these horrific acts don’t keep happening.

Okay. So why don’t we have the same attitude about Islamic terrorism?

Why have the deaths of a dozen or two African-Americans galvanized public demonstrations and the formation of an advocacy group purportedly designed to remind people that black lives matter, while the deaths of tens of thousands of people since 9/11 evoke only sadness, followed by a resigned shrug over how the world has changed?

Of course, efforts to curb terrorism are ongoing. Plots have been stopped. Precautions have been taken. But when the next Manchester or London Bridge happens, it will produce more heartbreak than anger, and more calls for calm than decisive action.

As David French opined in the National Review, we have become comfortable with terrorism, and those of us that are not are being told by our leaders that we should.

This is the “new normal,” we are told. But it doesn’t have to be.

We monitor terrorist cells and recruitment networks when we could be dissembling them. We put known meeting places under surveillance instead of under a wrecking ball. We “contain” (to use the previous president’s word) the threat of ISIS when we could be destroying the caliphate once and for all. We make relativistic arguments (hey, some Presbyterians are bad apples too!) to avoid being labeled a bigot, instead of clearly identifying the one and only specific credo that perpetuates and inspires mass carnage.

Yes, we now have a president who has clearly identified the threat, sometimes inelegantly to be sure. But even if he expressed himself with the eloquence of Daniel Webster on this topic, the response would likely be just as hostile.

Why is that? I don’t think it’s just anti-Trump sentiment, because for all of the tough talk Republicans muster in election years, the reluctance to mount a more aggressive response is largely bi-partisan: No boots on the ground in the Middle East. No travel restrictions from countries where extremism flourishes. No profiling.

If we do these things – if we even think about them, we are told, the terrorists win. They have won because we have compromised something in ourselves that makes us “better” than they are. But what is this aspiration that is so important it is worth preserving in the face of such barbarism? At some point, it must be weighed against the ever-increasing scores of innocent people around the world whose lives are violently ended by terrorism. Is there a number beyond the thousands already lost when, once reached, that scale no longer balances?

The alternative is to accept the world as it is now, with this prevailing threat that could strike anywhere at any time. Acceptance acknowledges that there will be more attacks. More airports and concert halls and parade routes turned into crime scenes. More dead children.

Don’t the terrorists win then too? If they win either way, what is the rationale against more definitive action?

Yes, there will be consequences. Some will be unexpected and some will be ugly. But it’s long past time we started asking whether those consequences are worse than 8 year-old girls dying at an Ariana Grande concert.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The irony of CNN firing Kathy Griffin

The inappropriate picture of actress Kathy Griffin holding the headed of a "beheaded" caricature of President Trump bloodied led to CNN, a division of Time Warner (NYSE : TWX), which could be acquired by American Telephone and Telegraph (NYSE : T), removing her from New Year's Eve programming. Now that was the correct behaviour since it was inappropriate. But what people forget is this very same Time Warner, through its NetherRealm Studios, is responsible for producing Mortal Kombat, a 25-year old video game franchise where one of the glorified moves is the character "Sub-Zero" pulling the head and spine off losers in the game's signature "fatality" move. Further games in the franchise include beheading (Kitana's fan), cannibalism (Mileena's eat and spit the bones, Liu Kang's dragon), and other copious amounts of violence that led to video game ratings that has furthered the advancement of even more violent video games for "adults only" ratings.

Has anyone noted how TWX will fire Kathy Griffin for doing to Donald Trump what Sub-Zero does to losers in their own video game?

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