So what indeed goes around comes around, as we saw with the headliners referenced in the pilot for a show that Mr. Martindale admitted was ruined by Mr. Griffin's own staff.
Friday, September 28, 2018
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
*And by the way, since when did funerals become occasions of settling scores? I always thought the purpose of a funeral was to pray for the soul of the deceased, rather than to speak out against people you didn’t like or agree with. Silly me.
Let’s first start with the proposition that America was always great, and didn’t need to be made great again, and do our own little fact check. (Personal opinion as always, of course.) After some reflection, it would seem to this writer that the following statements can be accepted as more or less true:
America was always great, except when the early settlers passed laws repressing Catholics.
America was always great, except when government officials reneged on treaties signed with American Indian tribes.
America was always great, except when blacks were legally deemed to be property and owned as slaves in the South.
America was always great, except when its laborers were treated brutishly and inhumanely, exploited by businessmen and denied the dignity that is inherent in work.
America was always great, except when rights of free speech were taken away from opponents of World War I.
America was always great, except when half the population—females—were denied the right to vote, as well as other rights, in many states.
America was always great, except when blacks had to fight for common civil rights, from voting to home ownership, and Jews were frequently the target of discrimination.
America was always great, except when politicians sent young soldiers off to fight wars without giving them clear direction on what they were fighting for.
America was always great, except when it sanctioned the murder of unborn children in the womb, and the sick and elderly based on their quality of life.
America was always great, except when it persecutes those citizens who desire freedom to pursue their religious beliefs regarding fundamental precepts on things such as marriage and abortion, through a combination of legal oppression and social approbation.
I could go on, I suppose, but I think you get the point.
Let’s look at the opposite viewpoint, though, the idea that America was never great. How does that stand up? These statements would seem obvious:
America was never great, except when it fought overseas to free people from tyranny and oppression.
America was never great, except when it contributed billions of dollars in financial aid and massive numbers of volunteers to help nations stricken by natural disasters.
America was never great, except when it provided ordinary people with the means to improve their lives without being held prisoner of a class system.
America was never great, except when it served as the crucible of innovation for doctors, scientists, innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs who improved the quality of live for people around the world.
America was never great, except when it mounted efforts such as the Berlin Airlift to support people fighting for their freedom.
America was never great, except when it accomplished the unthinkable and landed men on the moon.
America was never great, except when it became the source of hope and inspiration, for people whose greatest dream was to come here (legally) and become, in every way, Americans.
Again, you get the point here.
From these lists, I think one can be allowed to draw a conclusion, or perhaps an observation, which might provide us with an answer to this question.
The greatness of America often is the result of intangibles—freedom to act, a spirit of creation—that in turn provides the means to accomplish great things. The lack of greatness, on the other hand, often manifests itself in specific acts, either sanctioned by the government (formally or informally) or as the result of what could be called evil in the hearts of its citizens.
The logical conclusion, therefore, is that America is mostly a great nation, but not always a good one; that its titanic accomplishments can be offset by the darkness in the hearts of its citizens; that we are torn between our better angels and the demons that seek to posses us. The eradication of disease is a great accomplishment; the promotion of eugenics is an evil one.
Greatness and goodness can both be lost. A nation that oppresses its citizens or doesn’t allow them to succeed is no longer great. A nation that legally sanctions immorality or pursues immoral ends is no longer good. We needn’t see this as unique; it’s a contradiction that exists in all nations, because it exists in all humans. It’s why, for all our kvetching, things never seem to change—because people never change. It’s why we can’t achieve perfection in this life; if we could, we would have had no need for a Savior.
There has been, perhaps, a tendency for Americans to conflate greatness with goodness, perhaps more often than people from other countries. They do have one thing in common, though, which is that the pinnacle for each is something unattainable: perfection. We can, and must, always strive for it, with the knowledge that we will never achieve it but every step in that direction is a good thing.
But make no mistake—there is a difference between goodness and greatness. And sometimes a lack of one can make for a lack of the other.
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Being accused of being a liar used to be, as they would say in the Old West, fightin' words. And yet all we get is the pope comparing himself to Christ, vowing he will remain silent while he, in fact, continues to slander his accusers.
Yes, the pope fiddles while Rome burns. Where have we heard this story before?
Nancy McKeon, 52. "Jo" from The Facts of Life, she is the third cast member to appear in the Auntie Beeb franchise (Cloris Leachman in S7 and Kim Fields in S22). Of course, one recurring character in that show ended up as one of Hollywood's leading men in George Clooney, and Lisa Welchel actually caused a firestorm when she refused to allow her character to have premaritial sex and forced Embassy to rewrite an entire episode in the final season.
John Schneider, 58. Oh to remember the days of a young film star who was a teen, jumping a 1970 Dodge Charger across Georgia through rivers, bridges, and the rest. He wasn't meaning any harm, of course, but Sheriff Little would bust them for crossing the county line. Of course, we later remember him as Superman's father, but he has proven faithfulness over these years.
Mary Lou Retton, 50. America knows her as a 16-year old gymnast whose 10 made her a legend and the matriarch of US gymnastics. For me, it's my 14-year old self seeing her speak locally and sign my program from her speaking engagement, along with a kiss. For today's generation, she is the mother of two LSU gymnasts.
The fourth name of the cast I could recognise is Demarcus Ware, 36, a former NFL player who ate quarterbacks and running backs for a living. Other than those four, who are these stars?
Monday, September 24, 2018
uring Hurricane Florence coverage (we escaped, but many local churches cut and ran on a drizzling Sunday morning with little, if any, local damage by closing their doors while bars were open on Sunday for Premier League, La Liga, and NFL games on the screens all day), it caught my attention when I was informed a while back about weather alerts that local schools are now requiring parents' mobile phone numbers for the sole purpose of sending text messages to announce school closings. Back in the day, we had local radio stations listed to do the same thing.
The consequences of media consolidation to smaller markets reared its ugly head. The area is down to three radio stations, two of them owned by one New York state chain that under the former owners of those two radio stations, they yanked local news and both state and national talk radio programming. Our market is now one of the "dark" areas of the state where no access to news is possible. The third station was sold from a local family to a Sacramento chain, and has no community presence. The consequence was because schools have no access to the auto-tuned from New York or Sacramento programming, they could not post weather alerts or school, church, and factory closings.
Keven Cohen, the owner of WQXL Radio, noted the frustration of larger radio stations. In 2012, iHeartMedia fired him from the afternoon time slot. After a year off to comply with his contract, he developed a radio startup and today is one of the better radio stations in the market, airing local morning and afternoon programming, Saturday night programming, and national shows such as Brian Kilmeade, Laura Ingraham, Dave Ramsey, and Michael Weiner, Ph.D., on his station.
In a recent column, he noted Cumulus Media (which provides him with national radio news on the hour) let a popular radio host go, though he will now be remaining on the station through a syndicated program which they are the flagship station for sports produced by another company. He also cited a popular newspaper writer and then a well-established television broadcaster being let go -- all in a few weeks. The fact longstanding reporters are released quickly forced him to ask what has happened to media, especially since he's seen it from both a host's side and an owner's box. After seeing the lack of local coverage of Hurricane Florence and the schools now going to alternative sources to inform parents, what has happened to "local" media?
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Friday, September 7, 2018
The culprits were the usual ones, booze being at the top of the list. And so while the father was around, his presence was almost spectral; there but not there. Depending on the strength of the mother, the family was held together with varying degrees of success, but what remained the same in all cases was that a spectral father left a void every bit as gaping as having no father at all. The children managed, for the most part, adapting to their circumstances (as children often will), and with few exceptions they turned out to be stellar adults, though they also bore the wounds of childhood. But one thing that they almost all agreed on was that something was lacking, that even though they managed without an active dad, there were some gaps that could not be filled, some absences for which there was no compensation. And almost all of them were filled with regret, to one extent or another, at the things they missed, the memories that never were, the guidance that should have been but wasn’t. Life may have turned out exceedingly well for them, but it was still incomplete. In the drama that was their lives, there was a role that had been cast, but had not been filled. There was something missing.
Which brings me to the state of the Catholic Church today.
We’ve just passed the first anniversary of the election of the current pope, and it’s a fair assessment that he’s thrilled some, angered others, and confused many. Depending on who one talks to, he’s either Machiavellian in his cleverness, Christ-like in his gentleness, or Ted Baxter-ish in his cluelessness. Even now I’m not sure which of the three he is, though I haven’t ruled out the possibility of them all being valid.
As I’ve written before, I would not consider myself to be a “fan” of this pope. I’ve ceased reading much about him, for the choices often seem to be either fawning obsequiousness or slanderous contempt; either one would be enough to make my blood pressure rise. In the event, I try to avoid much about him whenever possible, lest I expose some latent, simmering rage. I still avert my eyes whenever his picture scrolls into view - again, an effort to avoid a proximate cause of sin. (Like many, I found something disturbing about his initial appearance on the balcony, a feeling which remains with me still.) As you may have noticed, it’s still an effort for me to even use his name – an effort I generally don’t try to mount. It would be very wrong to think that I hate him; that's too personal a feeling for me to have toward him. Indifference, however, can be just as damning.
A commenter at another blog mentioned that after a year he still mourned the end of Benedict’s pontificate. “Mourned” seems a strong word to me, not the kind of word I generally use, but also it doesn’t quite summarize my attitude. It’s too gentle, too sentimental. Were I to select a word of my own, it would perhaps be “bitter.”*
*Putting me in mind of one of my favorite poems, Stephen Crane’s “In the Desert”:
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
"But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
he origin of bitterness, if such exists, is because in converting to the Catholic faith it sometimes seems as if, in Whittaker Chambers’ words, I’ve joined the losing side. What makes this more frustrating is that this side – the Church – has all the correct answers. What it lacks is someone to articulate them.
Someone has pointed out that prior to last year’s Conclave, it would have been inconceivable to suggest that it “didn’t matter” who the pope was. Yet for many Catholics, it seems that this is exactly what is called for today. And when the best way to avoid anger is to ignore the pope and what he says, that’s not a good thing. It’s true that the faith of the Church is constant and unchanging – the truth, after all, is the truth – and in that sense it’s also true that when the tracks run straight and true, it isn’t that important who the engineer is. But the pope also has a role with regard to the faithful – to care for their souls, to instruct them, to correct them when necessary, to lead them. Just as the father is head of the family, the pope is head of the Church’s family. And what we have today is a fatherless Church.
It operates; Mass is said, confessions are heard, souls are saved, the Eucharist is received. The Catechism spells out exactly what the Church believes, and why. It functions, as the fatherless households of my friends functioned. But there is something missing.
Think of the paternal figure teaching a young boy how to be a man. There is the wise comforter wiping tears from a daughter's eyes. There is the husband who is the rock of the family, who helps out when help is requested - and, even as important, when it isn't. This is what the father provides a family, what my friends were unable to experience.
Think of the tireless advocate for the unborn who hears from her pontiff that she may be "obsessed" with single issues. Think of the defender of the Church's teachings who feels dismissed with not even a how-do-you-do to show for it, while his pontiff lavishes attention on those who don't even seek it. Think of the believer of tradition, the unbroken line of some two thousand years that unites the Church militant to the Church triumphant, only to see those beliefs under attack, while the pontiff scarcely raises his voice. Abortion. Euthanasia. Homosexual marriage. The authority of the Magisterium. Precisely the kinds of things that a father stands up for within his own family.
***'m reminded of another poem*, this one by T.S. Eliot, an Anglican who likely would have converted to Catholicism had he lived to see the meaninglessness into which his church has descended, a meaninglessness of doctrine, a lack of teaching, a foundation that looks like nothing more sound than quicksand.
*I don't mean to turn this into Poetry Corner, by the way.
According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, "The Hollow Men" deals with post-World War I Europe under the Treaty of Versailles, the difficulty of hope and religious conversion, and possibly his own failed marriage.
We are the hollow menThe Bishop of Rome assures us that he is a loyal "son of the Church." A son, of course, suggests a father, and I've no doubt that the pope draws great strength and comfort from his Heavenly Father; but he must also know the importance of an earthly father. After all, Christ's earthly father, St. Joseph, is the protector of the Church.
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass<
In our dry cellar
It is time for the Holy Father to be an earthly father to that Church. Let's not forget how "The Hollow Man" closes, with one of the most famous stanzas in literature, lines that even those who don't read poetry are likely familiar with:
This is the way the world endsToday we are The Fatherless Church, and though we continue to function it is often without a hand on the tiller, and even if we keep on course we are acutely aware of what we are missing. We are The Fatherless Church, and we fear that we're being led by Hollow Men, headpieces filled with straw. We wonder when the father will start to act like a father, to fill the gap that only he is capable of filling - indeed, which he has been charged with filling.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Will it be too late? Or will it all end, not with the banging of the doors of nearly empty churches, but with whimpering from their nearly empty pews?
Originally published March 14, 2014
Thursday, September 6, 2018
If I'm in a certain city on Sunday morning, after run, spin, or barre class, I'll stop at a friend's church for services since I have a rule to never skip church even if I'm out of town. Typically, I'll carry my Bible study book since it's the same book as used back home, but the service music is what I call in the "Kyle Larson line" where a slide job is done and a run in the high line is used instead of the low-hanging fruit of alleged church music that is doctrinal malpractice and man-centred that many churches have chosen to sing thanks to the cooperation between Universal Music and every notorious cult-like false teacher of Hillsong, Bethel, Elevation, and the ilk.
David Schwoebel (1957-) wrote "Ascription of Praise," which is often used as a benediction in churches. I heard this when in one such city with their church. This from the local junior college in Laurel, Mississippi, and performed at a major church there, is Mr. Schwoebel's setting of Jude 24-25. Now Laurel just happens to be the hometown of both a legendary opera singer and also a singer that those who have read this blog will know very well because that 40-year old Laurel native and now mother of three taught me to sing. Enjoy this setting of the last verses in Jude to music. There is a place for good church music set from the Bible, not a Top 40 feelings song.
Labels: Religious Music
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
The Electronic Mirror: What Classic TV Tells Us About Who We Were and Who We Are (and Everything In-Between) is my collection of essays on classic television—how the programs of the '50s, '60s, and '70s illustrate the development of American culture in the second half of the 20th Century. These essays examine how this most personal form of mass communication reflects the culture of its time, how it has fulfilled (or failed to fulfill) its initial promise, and how TV has—intentionally as well as unintentionally—predicted the future, with sometimes disturbing results. As I write in the book, "Television is our history, no matter when we were born, for it tells us not only who we were then, but who we are today, and how we got there."
My new novel, The Car, is the story of Winter, an ordinary man living an ordinary life, it will not end until he learns what has happened to the car’s owner and why the car has been left abandoned and ignored on a city street. As Winter’s curiosity turns to obsession, his search for the missing owner intensifies and he finds the car taking him on a journey that he never expected, one of dreams and reality in which nothing–and no one–is what it seems. Not even him. And it asks a question: how do we measure the worth of a life lived?
These two books, along with my first novel The Collaborator, are available through Amazon now, and through other online dealers in the weeks to come; I'm hoping to have e-book versions available next month. You can find out more about my books, along with upcoming events, by going to my new and improved author page.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
We’re used to scandal, both here in the United States and around the world, but our scandals usually involve either politicians, celebrities, athletes, or business executives, and with rare exceptions, the scandal usually involves loss of fame, loss of face, loss of job, or all three. Seldom does it involve loss of live, and even more rarely does it leave its victims often wishing for death.
That this tragedy has such a human face is one of the many things for which we’ll all have to atone someday. There’s no telling how many innocent lives have been touched by clerical abuse, nor how many years this has gone on. What we do know is that all of the victims have, to varying degrees, been scarred for life, and that some of these lives have been shortened as a direct result of what has happened to them. If it were merely their faces that we saw in the darkness of our minds when we think about it all, that would be bad enough, but I defy anyone with a heart and a soul to look at the faces of the young people they see today, whether their own or those they encounter in church or school or in a hospital (where I work) or in the store or just walking down the street. The thought that they have been victims, are victims, may be victims, should hit us like a punch to the gut.
We were told that this was all over, back in the early part of this century when the bishops examined their actions and drew up new standards. “Never again,” we were told, much as the Jews vowed after the Holocaust, but just as we have seen resurgence in anti-Semitism, we have seen the sex abuse scandal rear its ugly head once again. Only this is not resurgence; indeed, it would appear that the abusers never stopped abusing, the victims never stopped being abused.
Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the responsibility rise, like the red line of a thermometer on a hot summer day, extending from priest to bishop to archbishop to cardinal. And now, of course, it has reached the top, the pope himself. He is not being accused of abuse himself, but of enabling it, covering it up, and as Richard Nixon would have acknowledged, it’s always the cover-up that gets you in the end.
In fact, for those of us who were alive back then and remember it, this has more than a whiff of Watergate to it. “What did the pope know and when did he know it?” has become the question, and the pope is now engaging in his own form of stonewalling, refusing to answer any questions on his own guilt or innocence. We’ve not yet heard him utter that famous phrase, “I am not a crook,” but the day is early yet. Pope Richard Milhous Bergolio, anyone?
With the publication of Archbishop Vigano’s stunning letter, the cards are now on the table; perhaps not all the cards, but maybe just enough so that we can tell the game that’s being played. And make no mistake, the game is winner-take-all, with the soul of mankind as the ultimate prize. The extent of the corruption involved—not merely the cover-up, which is bad enough, but the very sin involved, the sin that cries out to Heaven, is shocking. Again, were this a typical scandal—say, the Vatican Bank—we might be disappointed, disgusted, perhaps a little shocked; but this reaches to the very soul, a corruption that goes far beyond mere politics or power or finance and to the heart of our humanity, and how we define it. It addresses what we believe, and Who we believe, and therefore who we are and how we live our lives. It is hypocrisy of an order that exponentially dwarfs that of your average scandal.
And because if that, we must stop thinking about it as if it is an average scandal. The pope is the pope, after all, and while we hear calls for his resignation (from members of the laity, as well as Archbishop Vigano himself), it’s not quite as simple as all that. The very word “resignation” is a misnomer; the pope, as is the case with other forms of man-made royalty, does not resign; he abdicates, leaving the throne vacant until a successor can be chosen. The difference in words alone suggests the gravity of the situation; nobody suggests that, due to weak earnings in the second quarter, the CEO of IBM should abdicate. There is a weight, a gravitas to the word, that underscores the power, as well as the responsibility, which resides in a monarch.
Of course, if these accusations are true, or even partially true, Francis must abdicate—not just because he has lost the trust of his flock, but because he has betrayed God Himself, and the office to which he has been elected. It is a betrayal of a breathtaking sort, coming after a succession of actions and comments over the length of his reign that border on, if not cross over into, heresy. Even the most charitable of observers should be able to concede that Francis has made a mess of things, that he has served to divide the Church and confuse the faithful, while appearing to contradict the timeless teachings of Christ. I have my own opinions on this, which I’ve made known over the last few years, particularly in my novel The Collaborator, but a sober analysis of the situation demands we keep opinion out of the mix, that we state without emotion the situation as we see it.
And one of the things that we see, as we must, is that the very reason the pope must abdicate is also the reason why, in all likelihood, he will not.
Think about it. He has no Congress attempting to impeach him, no electorate looking to vote him out of office, no “vote of no confidence” that can cause his government to fall. If he is what his accusers say he is, it serves only to suggest that he has the traits which will prevent him from abdicating—hubris, duplicity, a corrupt, even evil, nature. Abdication would, all things considered, be the honorable thing to do, and even if he were not guilty, an honorable man might consider it simply to remove doubt and (hopefully) restore confidence and a sense of holiness to the papacy. If these accusations are true, though, then Francis is not an honorable man, so we have no reason to think he will do the right thing. Given his character—again, if this is true—as well as the fact that he cannot be forced off the Petrine throne against his will, he has no incentive to abdicate.
Nonetheless, it feels as if we’re entering something of an end game; not, as Churchill put it, the beginning of the end, but just perhaps the end of the beginning. It is hard to imagine things continuing as they now are for an indefinite period; either it will blow over (with the help of the media, no doubt), or Francis will see the handwriting on the wall (an apt phrase, don’t you think?), or the Church will erupt into a civil war that will invariably lead to a schism. There are, possibly, ways of removing a pope, although there’s no uniformity of agreement on whether or not they are valid, and in any event without a drastic change in the composition of the College of Cardinals the new pope might well be cut from the same bolt of cloth as the current one.
Looking back, I fear that in writing about this, I, too, have perhaps lapsed into the language of conventional scandal. Maybe it’s because we can find comfort it in, dealing with it as if it’s not all that different from the crises we’ve encountered in the past. Maybe it’s because the truth is just too horrible to imagine. When Richard Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford famously pronounced that “Our long national nightmare is over.” Our problem is that this is no nightmare, but the real thing—and even if we’re at the end of the beginning, it’s far from being over.