Friday, May 17, 2019

Wish I'd written that: a warning for the future

V
on Tschammer und Osten said that all Roman Catholic and Protestant youth organizations are, like all Jewish organizations, to be expressly forbidden to pursue any sport. As far as the Nazis are concerned, people are going to have to make a choice between religion and sport. The point being that all sports training is to be done under Nazi auspices. He actually said that the Nazis are conducting a cultural war against the church.”

“He said that?”

“Any Catholic or Protestant athletes who don’t join Nazi sports clubs will lose their chance of representing Germany.”

I shrugged. “So let them. Who cares about a few idiots running around a track anyway?”

“You’re missing the point, Gunther. They’ve purged the police. Now they’re purging sports. If they succeed, there will be no aspect of German life in which they won’t be able to exert their authority. In all aspects of German society, Nazis will be preferred. If you want to get on in life, you will have to become a Nazi.”

- Philip Kerr, If the Dead Rise Not

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Classic Sports Thursday: Doris Day edition


Frank Mirahmadi, the track announcer at Santa Anita (winter) and Monmouth Park (summer), once called the horses at Turf Paradise, which is the track where a legendary country sing was written after its writer visited the Arizona mile.

In memory of Doris Day, no less, this scene took place on her 89th birthday.  A horse carrying the same name as one of Day's well-known songs won, and Mirahmadi, known for his antics on more casual races, went crazy again, and the track's video page reacted too.


Friday, May 10, 2019

Retro TV Friday: GLOW and Card Sharks

With the announcement ABC is reviving Mark Goodson's Card Sharks (aka Play Your Cards Right in the UK and NZ) as a summer series with Joel McHale as host (?), this story came back to catch us.

The late Emily Dole, a star shot put athlete who was in the Olympic Trials twice, who played Mount Fiji on the original Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling "promotion," was involved in a 1988 episode of the Bob Eubanks version. Keep in mind Eubanks had just turned 50 and Dole was 31. (Dole died age 60 in 2018; Eubanks is now 81, and his son is a famous stuntman.) The ten GLOW actresses were asked how many could lift Mr. Eubanks over his head. Dole tried it -- and see for yourself what a shot put star could do trying to bodyslam a game show host.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Wish I'd written that: how tough was it?

I wouldn’t say we lived in a tough neighborhood, but when I was growing up we still called a story with a happy ending an alibi.”

- Philip Kerr, If the Dead Rise Not

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Twenty-Five Years Later. 0817 CET

Outside the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, outside the Variante Tamburello chicane, is a statue where many flowers and Brazilian flags are placed every year, but none more prevalent day than May 1.  It was 1417 CET (8:17 AM EDT) when it happened, twenty-five years ago today.

Thomas Grønvold's archive of that day:



Autosport:


A review of the site.

Newly inducted Class of 2019 Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame inductee Bob Jenkins that afternoon offered a tribute during the broadcast of the Alabama 500 (clip of opening the tribute of silence, which was interrupted by the second Big One). It also includes the Earnhardt interview.


BBC Interview of the booth:


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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, April 23, 2019

Wish I'd written that: reflections on Earth Day

The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshipers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.”

- G.K. Chesterton

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday with Bishop Sheen, 1956

I often make the point on these pages of how much things have changed over the years, not only in television but culture in general.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's Life Is Worth Living ran on DuMont, ABC and in syndication from the early 1950s through the late 1960s.  Blessed with a sharp mind, a whimsical sense of humor and a gift of gab, Bishop Sheen brought his ecumenical message to millions of viewers each week; as Brooks and Marsh put it in their Complete Guide to Prime Time Programming, the word "homily" would be strong for the friendly, accessible talks from the good Bishop.

A half-hour of religious programming in prime time on a national broadcast network would be unthinkable today - that pretty much goes without saying.  And while that is one measure of the change in television between then and now, it's actually another point that I'm thinking of: the idea of a "talking head" as entertainment programming.

There were no fancy graphics, no special effects, on Life is Worth Living; the closest thing being the invisible "angel" (actually a stagehand) responsible for erasing the blackboard Sheen used to illustrate his points.  People watched and enjoyed that, week after week.  As someone wrote not long ago about the Dick Cavett shows, it hearkens back to a day when conversation was actually considered entertainment - and by that I mean actual, you know, talking, rather than shouting, interrupting, declaiming, insulting, offending, and what have you. Of all the changes we've seen in television over the years, I think this is one of the most underrated and underappreciated.

What we have here is either from Good Friday, 1956; It was sponsored (as I recall from the version I have) by Progresso, and presented without commercial interruption.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Unplanned thoughts

The author with Abby Johnson, 2012 Pro-Life Dinner at SC March for Life
The recent release of Pure Flix's Unplanned, about Abby Johnson's departure from Planned Parenthood, was a box office hit despite mainstream media attempts to sabotage the film.  But as I watched it myself on a Sunday, having to drive 55 miles near Shaw Air Force Base as we don't have a movie theatre for 45 miles, and the ones closest to me were owned by Chinese Communist interests (which for a New Taipei City native legally can have you in trouble over the wants of the Communist Party), I found a screen not owned by Wanda (if you've seen their ads in football, their running series, or triathlons, you'll understand) to watch the movie.

The story starts innocently as Abby and Doug Johnson are at home, and Abby leaves for work after she greets her daughter. The title of the movie is not shown, except for the fact it is built around an eponymous book. The shocking details of the Planned Parenthood of Bryan, TX director being asked to observe an abortion and assist in it starts what is the legitimate reason the movie was handed an R rating, as it depicts children being murdered in a gruesome manner, as the murder takes place.

That scene will repeat itself later as they flash back to her trip to a volunteerism day while in college, introduced deceptively to Planned Parenthood. But what I initially observe is a huge mistake in the movie, as access to the parking lot of that venue is blocked, despite federal law (FACE) signed by the Clinton Administration. The Pure Flix producers also use the inappropriate stereotypes for pro-life folks around the murder mill, and we see the first signs of a product placement (40 Days for Life) being rampant in the movie. I've known Pure Flix has made product placement crucial in their movies, often ruining the message by running advertisements. They flash back to her first failed marriage and her trip to that very same baby murder mill, as a patient, told to consume mifepristone (better known as Rousell Uclaf-486), a drug legalised by the Clinton Administration, to kill her first child. The drug was used to escape the bad marriage in the film, and the horrific bleeding and death of the child could have become two deaths as a result of that scene. It was horrific, and allowed people to see how deceptive the marketers were in pushing the drug (which should be banned, if you saw the consequences).

After the failed marriage, she found love again, a marriage that continues to this day. They also attend church for the first time together, which brings to light a second disturbing scene and product placement. In my 22 years of volunteering with the state chapter of National Right to Life, which I continue to this day as a member of the local chapter, I've met Mrs. Johnson at the Clover Wolf Memorial Pro-Life Weekend in 2012 (the name was added in 2018 following the death of the current state director's mother). I understand they are Catholic, and over Christmas Day itself, I visited my Citizens for Life friends at their Catholic cathedral to observe their services (though not permitted to take communion because of being a Protestant, I deliberately carried my Bible to the service). When the scene notes the Johnsons attending church, instead of a vast cathedral in the College Station area being shown, we are shown an auditorium similar to what you see in a high school, a rock band, and a "minister". In observing the closing credits of the film, we are told the minister in the film is a minister at the notoriously heretic Bethel Church of Redding, California. There is no way a rock band and this type of minister would be at the church the Johnsons attended, as Bethel is a cult, with events such as the "Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry" (see this article or details), and the "Kundalini movement" inside that church. Sadly, the movie's music also comes from Bethel, which should be a warning as many churches today have adopted Bethel, along with its "Jesus Culture" and "Bethel Music" brands, into their churches, not knowing royalties support them.

Scenes of pro-life prayer warriors (around the campus of the baby murder mill where she was working) being sprayed by the sprinkler system have an eerie reference to the civil rights rallies in Birmingham, Alabama, of the 1960's, complete with notorious police chief Eugene "Bull" Connor's use of fire hydrants to spray those pushing for desegregation. Abby is then named the director of the Bryan area Planned Parenthood, followed by her award as director of the year, and plans for a larger facility are announced.  We also learn her parents have prayed for her because of the troubling position she heads—she has only thought the organization was for women's health care (but it was not).

The crucial turning point of the movie take place after we see her awards. There is an innocent time where Doug and Abby have date night at a local cantina, and the television news screens show the death of Kansas baby murderer George Tiller. The prosecuting attorney going after Mr. Tiller was Phill Kline (now having been been part of Citizens for Life these years), who would later lose his law licence when the Governess (who later became the Obama Administration's HHS Secretary, advancing new regulations that we call Obamacare), stripped him for political gain because of his prosecution of Mr. Tiller. He also had previously spoken at a March for Life. After that, Abby is more open and we see how killed children must be reassembled prior to disposal. The children are placed in a barrel and a Prayer for the Dead (though initially I thought it resembled Mormonism's baptism for the dead) are conducted. After that, we return to the opening scene of the film where Abby is called to an abortion examination room and after that breaks down after seeing the child die. She is in the bathroom and broke down, then counseling to the pro-life counselors that were around the room.

As we know now, with the gruesome truth exposed, Johnson quits Planned Parenthood. Their lawyers taunt her, as you might expect, and after finding an attorney that actively is pro-life, she wins her case. She now works on the other side, and we see one expecting mother choose life instead after Abby explains the story. The movie ends with Executive Producer Mike Lindell driving a tractor and pulling down the Planned Parenthood sign as the clinic closed.

My concern was was Bethel's product placement too rampant to push their heresy?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

We don’t deserve Notre Dame

Like millions around the world, I watched the images of Notre Dame engulfed in flames. As a Christian, though not a Catholic, it was devastating.

I’ve been to Paris twice, and both times a visit to the cathedral was essential. One cannot help but gaze in astonishment at its overwhelming beauty and majesty. I did not attend services there, which I regret now, but the first time I entered I had the pleasure to witness a wedding taking place within its hallowed walls. That made the moment even more special.

And now much of it is gone.

A cause will be identified for the fire, while people of faith will debate whether its destruction was a simple accident, or if there is some deeper meaning to be found in its loss. How could an 800 year-old structure that survived a bloody revolution and two world wars be gutted by an extreme makeover?

We should always be cautious to ascribe earthly tragedies to divine intervention. But somehow it seems a little harder to dismiss this time.

Governments throughout the civilized world sanction the murder of millions of unborn children, and applaud (not just figuratively but literally) legislation that makes it easier, not more difficult to expand these grim statistics. We take legal action against memorials and monuments with a religious connotation. We mock those who pray after tragedy, expel God from schools and cheer every time the popular culture takes another step away from grace and civility.

And while secular society ceaselessly strives to eradicate any reference to faith from our culture, the perversions and prevarication of far too many who represent the Catholic Church have hastened its path to obsolescence, and only made it easier for its enemies to advance their agendas.

In times like these, in Easter week, how could one not see a message being sent by the destruction of this magnificent, holy edifice? How can we not draw a conclusion from the loss of a place that symbolized reverence for the divine, and for life, and for beauty? Our world may finally have become too ugly to sustain such treasures.

President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to rebuild. That’s good. But in today’s France, where 5% of Catholics attend Mass, and atheism is more popular than Jerry Lewis, the loss of a cathedral carries no more meaning than the loss of a theme park attraction. Oh, well, now the tourists will just have an extra hour to visit Disneyland Paris.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Retro TV Friday

F
irst off, before we start, Charles van Doren, RIP.  His intelligence was the subject of a major scandal when "Twenty-One" was rigged, as he admitted in Washington, leading to the major quiz show scandals taking down its biggest name.

But we go off to a Retro TV Friday that reflects on game shows, as you might expect.  This week, singer Julianna Emanski made a social media post that would have been worthy of being a blooper on the short-lived Jay Wolpert produced Bud Austin game "Whew!" that aired in 1979, as the object of the game was to correct the bloopers read by Jim Narz (aka Tom Kennedy, used a stage name to prevent people from confusing him with his brother Jack, also a well known game show host.

I've made her post into a "Whew!" blooper as if it was on the show.  Can you solve it?  (She corrected it;  I've edited it to make it resemble a question on the game.)

“The vast majority of pop music and lyrics is written by Mark Martin and Lukas Gottwald?”

(NOTE:  The original post that she posted:  “This is super interesting. Popular music today is a product designed to sell, not to inspire. Did you know that the vast majority of pop music and lyrics is written by Mark Martin and Lukas’s Gottwald!??? Just two people??? Watch this vid, y’all.”  It was since corrected.)

Here's the game reference (courtesy Wink Martindale):

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Wish I'd written that: what happens when the grid breaks down

All those signal grids, evenly beating in the night sky. Think what would happen if we didn’t fill the grids. People. Pause and think. If the grids break down. Think how empty it would be. Suddenly nothing. Would be dark. Would be bleak. All the words that end in the letter k. What is out there? Who are we? Would be infinite winter in our rooms.

-Don DeLillo, Valparaiso

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Opera Wednesday

L
isette Oropesa was named the winner of the 2019 Richard Tucker Award. The soprano has already become a major headliner worldwide, including the Royal Theater of Madrid and the Royal Opera House as Lucia de Lammermoor. The award, named for an American singer, is awarded to a rising American soprano.

And while thinking about it, she fits two categories that your humble writer fits -- the Southeastern Conference alum, and Marathoner!

Oropesa shows this video of her running in Lausanne, set to her performance in Ambroise Thomas' operatic version of Hamlet that she was performing at the time, Act IV, "La mort d’Ophélie" (The Death of Ophelia).


This happened in 2013 at the NYC Runs Brooklyn Marathon.  Yes, the National Anthem singer is in running gear and a bib.


Congratulations, Lisette!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Wish I'd written that: on entertainment as pain

I’d been to public entertainments before, of course; I’d been to the cinema and the pantomime and to see my mother sing in the chorus of the White Horse Inn at the Town Hall. But that was different. The audiences I had hitherto been a part of had paid to have a good time, and though occasionally one might spot a fidgety child or a yawning adult, I hadn’t ever noticed faces contorted by rage or despair or frustration. Entertainment as pain was an idea entirely new to me, and it seemed to be something I’d been waiting for.

- Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Throwback Thursday: What women want?

Most of you are probably familiar with the stories that continue to come out, pointing to an "epidemic" (I think that's the word they used) of student-teacher sex affairs. Of particular interest to many was the number of female teachers who had become involved with young male students, many of them in their early teens. Some call these teenage boys "abused," others consider them "lucky." Whatever, clearly the answer to ending this scandal is to allow teachers to marry - wait a minute, my mistake; it's allowing priests to marry that's supposed to end sexual abuse of teenage boys.

Clearly, if we learn anything from this whole mess, it's that the theory that allowing priests to marry will eliminate the pedophile scandal is nothing but a red herring. First of all, it's not pedophilia but pederasty that drove the Church's scandal - that and a rejection by the priests involved of Catholic teaching.

This, however, is a matter for another day. What interests so many about this teacher abuse study is a fundamental question of human curiosity: what do these grown women see in teenage boys? There's something almost nauseating about the whole thing. What I find interesting about it is how this behavior contrasts so dramatically with how women used to behave, or at least how they were portrayed in popular culture. Forget for a minute whether or not that pop culture portrayal was an accurate one; what mattered, in order for the portrayal to be a successful one, was that it was plausible.

Nowhere is that more evident than in pulp detective fiction, especially that from one of the genre's masters, Mickey Spillane, and his greatest creation, Mike Hammer. Hammer is, to put it mildly, a chick magnet (as well as a magnet for bullets, fists, Commies, Mafia, and all sorts of other unsavory characters). And we're not talking about ordinary women here - just beautiful ones. Breathtakingly beautiful ones. Hammer, at first blush, would seem to be the most unlikely object of desire.

He is, by his own admission, not a handsome man. It’s true that women often meet him after he’s been beaten virtually to a pulp by some nefarious perp, who invariably winds up dead, either right away – in the “you should see the other guy” school – or later on, when Hammer fulfills his mission of revenge. It’s clear, though, that Hammer harbors no illusions about his own appearance, even in the best of times.

And yet women literally throw themselves at him. Within minutes of the initial meeting, they’re tossing off suggestions and bon mots at him that would make a sailor blush. To these invitations Hammer often reacts lewdly, taking advantage of some, disdaining others. It must be nice to pick and choose that way.

Hammer is by no means unique in the world of detective fiction. Philip Marlowe, for one, has the same, shall we say, problem (especially when he’s played by Humphrey Bogart), and easy sex with loose women is a staple of both pulp and mainstream mysteries. Even Nick Charles, he of the Thin Man series, is one of those men who women want and men want to be like. Nick is considerably smoother and more handsome than most of them, however, plus he has Myrna Loy to come home to, and so he remains above those kinds of temptation.

Nevertheless, what is it about these characters that causes beautiful women – far more beautiful than the men are handsome – to throw themselves at them with a speed worthy of a Puccini opera? The reason for this animal magnetism, implicit in the Hammer books, is a simple one: manliness. Hammer is a real man, not a fake – a man who knows what he wants, knows how to get it, and, most important, isn’t afraid to take it.

And this is what brings us back around to the central question asked at the beginning – why the epidemic of female teacher-male student affairs? What is it that these older women – some barely older, some much older – could possibly find of interest in these boys? One theory that I find plausible is that implicit in these actions is a rejection of modern malehood – the lack of manliness so prevalent in men today. As the metrosexual (if that term isn’t already passé) becomes a dominant archetype of the modern man, more and more women yearn for that old-style masculinity found in the likes of Hammer and others. Enough with men who seek to be in touch with their “feminine side.” To many women, this breeds doubt, uncertainty, an unwillingness to take the initiative – hardly qualities that make a man truly attractive. Hugh Grant may be the ideal man for those tissue-drenching chick flicks that Lifetime and Hallmark live on, but it’s not hard to imagine that a real relationship based on that Hugh Grant character would lead to frustration and exasperation before too long.

So, confronted with the lack of “real men” out there, and dismayed by the alternative - young men wrapped up in rude, crude and boorish Maxim-like behavior, women reject the choices presented to them by conventional society and instead turn to the raw material, the stuff that their dreams can truly be made of. In the handsome, virile boy in their classroom they find a boy eager to learn, eager to please, with much to offer in the physical sense; but also one not yet corrupted by sensitivity training. Perhaps he’s a rugged jock, or a boy who exhibits all the hesitant masculine boisterousness that teenage boys usually have. Or he’s untapped ground, one who can be shaped not by the demands of society to emasculate himself, but by the desires of a woman who thinks (however misguided) she can teach him how to be a real man.

This kind of thing is really nothing new however, as is shown by Richard Strauss’ comic opera masterpiece Der Rosenkavalier. The subject matter in this story, written in 1911 but set in 1740s Vienna, was the source of some controversy as well. In it, we have the Marshallin, a charming but aging noblewoman, who is involved with Octavian, described as “a handsome young man with an eye for beautiful women.” Through a series of impossibly convoluted twists and turns, Octavian loses his heart to the beautiful young Sophie, who herself is engaged to the inept and repulsive Baron von Lerchenau.

Although the Marschallin is captivated by her affair with Octavian and falls in love with him, she knows that eventually he will leave her for a younger woman - one more his age. Eventually, this happens, and in the heart-wrenching trio "Hab' mir's gelobt" she releases Octavian to follow his heart and go to Sophie, saying she loves him so much she only wants happiness for him, even if it is with another woman.

With this ending, Strauss hints at the natural law of things, that eventually people - especially young ones - gravitate toward those of their own kind, their own age. And I think that what people most strongly object to in these teacher-student affairs is the idea that the young are being robbed of their future, of their natural maturing into the world beyond their youth, in essence being trapped into a lifestyle (and the consequences) long before they're ready to accept - or even understand - that life. Thus, they are not victims of sexual abuse per se, but of the same kind of abuse that we see in advertising campaigns, in peer pressure, in a hundred different ways - the abuse of forcing children to become adults before they're ready. Some would say that the unfortunate, if not ironic, aspect of this is that in the teacher-student case this is often being done by women who refuse to grow up, who yearn instead for their own childhood, free of responsibility.

As I say, I’m no sociologist, so I don’t pretend that this is anything other than a theory that I find compelling. It also suggests, but doesn’t necessarily deal with, the immaturity that these women themselves exhibit, their own failure to grow up and act responsibly. It does, however, answer a great many questions. And undoubtedly it says a lot about the present state of masculinity – or the lack thereof – in the modern male. I don’t know if we should be more worried about this epidemic of schoolhouse abuse, or the cultural forces that may be playing a part in it.

Whatever the case, this whole phenomenon should cause us to look closely at what our culture has become - how we view childhood, what it means to be a "real man" (and how through our culture so many of the natural aspects of manhood are being stripped away), and how for so many nowadays, adulthood is something to be put off as long as possible.

Originally published December 13, 2007

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Opera Wednesday

If you've read this blog for any great length of time, you'll know that Gian Carlo Menotti is one of my favorite composers. Here's his whimsical opera buffa The Telephone, as done for Austrian television in 1968. What you're seeing here is not an excerpt, but pretty much the entire opera - I say "pretty much" because this runs a little less than 18 minutes, whereas the opera normally plays to about 26 minutes or so. While there might have been some cuts, this is still the essence of the story.

Though Menotti wrote the opera in English, you'll see it here in German, without subtitles. Despite that, I'm confident you're going to be able to figure it out fairly quickly. It has to do with a young man, Ben, who has something very important to tell his girlfriend, Lucy. Getting her attention, though, is something else...

The singers are Anja Silja and Eberhard Waechter, with Wolfgang Rennert conducting the orchestra of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll: the push for pot Is related

It's everywhere on the news regardless of where you live.  The push for pot is rampant.  The old cliché is there. "Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll." With this being the 50th anniversary of an infamous rock concert festival on Max Yasgur's farm whose celebration will be held on the grounds of a venue where Innes Ireland to Alan Jones won F1 races for 20 years nearby, you have to wonder of that phrase relates to what has happened in our society as a whole. All three have taken control of the land.

Rock and Roll. Today, too many churches have sold their souls to rock and roll, and the penetration of these parties have seduced the youth -- even when they attend a church that is full of bad rock music in services -- to think of it as a party that when it comes to serious teachings, they skip church in the belief the truth is "relative" and not absolute, and also because they were taught in these youthful parties that they mature and ignore the seriousness. The most popular churches are self-help life enhancement centres where any hit song from any pop divo or diva is sung (see NewSpring singing from 50 Shades of Gray as an example), and the rampant popularity of the Kundalini spirit of Bethel where many congregations have cover bands playing Bethel's hits, unaware they promote such dangerous New Age spirituality that was rampant of that era that is coming home to roost now. How many times have people's warnings of Bethel fallen on deaf ears?

Rock and Roll also means the relativism in the media that started in music and is now pushed in a post-Hays Code movie and television industry, especially with the glorification of television's New Big Four where "too hot for movies" and "no Kyle Busch Rule" is now glorified as the perfect show for television, as commercials promoting shows from the New Big Four are pushing the TV-MA rated programming, which is the X rating in movies. Losing the standard has cost entertainment its high quality and high standards. When even religious radio such as the KLVR-FM chain from Sacramento decided to purge Biblical teachings, news, and commentary, while pushing heretic entertainment, the relativism is complete.

Thirty years ago, as a teen, I investigated rock music for its lyrics and content as a term paper for fun in the summer. In light of the gruesome murders we've seen that have plenty of influence in the music, movies, and television, what hath the rock and roll culture wrought?

The culture of Rock and Roll has taken over.

Sex. After Vermont's judges went rogue two decades ago, thirty-one states passed marriage definitions, many over 75 percent approval, and even California approved 53 percent, primarily with the "rest of the state" that was being ignored by the state leadership, a warning that proves Sen. Dirksen correct in 1964. In light of the major scandals at elite colleges over admissions (which is partially related to federal quotas that are another issue), and Justice Scalia's warnings in the decision that forced "sex" per the elites down on us, the idea of "free sex" and "sexual liberty" is demolishing religious freedom.  These judges of elite institutions said the majority's view of marriage did not fit their feelings.  We see the dangers of sodomy and graphic sex-ed standards that these "San Francisco Values" forced on us, and that includes heinous crimes that we would never have seen in the past, and special protections under ObamaCare that protect STD's.

Today, MTV glorifies out of wedlock teenage sex and Discovery has been celebrating boys who claim to be girls, forcing even athletic standards to be changed to appease them. In 2012, Miss Universe, then owned by The Trump Organisation, was sued by a Canadian man who claimed to be a woman, with Gloria Allred representing him, forcing Miss Universe to accept men who claim to be women (since the man is Canadian, and the Canadian Human Rights Code protects men who claim to be a woman), and this past Miss Universe season, Spain was represented by such men. Thanks to the "Exxon Mobil Payback" (the Executive Order signed giving special rights to sexually perverse in businesses signed by the Obama Administration when shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a New York City proposal), CrossFit, Inc. was forced to accept men claiming to be women as women (and vice versa) as part of attempting to teach their techniques to the military.

Now we are seeing the next push in sexual liberty in many city-states where a single city or two control an entire state. These powerful urban areas are now forcing laws allowing effective infanticide by killing children during any time the child is in the womb of the mother. These sexual liberty activists have a philosophy similar to India's Hindu caste system, where they are the warrior caste and Christians and those outside the elite enclaves are untouchables. Look at the controversy over Twitter banning Abby Johnson's Unplanned from having an account, and how most television channels affiliated with a major movie studio banning that movie from being advertised on their channels.

Drugs.  As a registered athlete with CrossFit, Inc., for The CrossFit Open the past three seasons currently representing Athlete's Arena (which acquired the CrossFit box last year that I have been part the past four years) with friends participating in higher level events,  and the domestic Autorité Sportif Nationale (ASN) for the International Triathlon Union because of a requirement that local ASN membership is mandatory to participate in triathlons, and having run in International Association of Athletics Federations or the domestic ASN sanctioned races that are state-level national championships and internationally renowned 10,000 metre races in the region exclusively as a weekend warrior, the rule book for these events state we are subject to drug testing under the auspices of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Many workers at businesses around the world, including police, fire, and first responders, and the military, are also subject to similar WADA drug testing policies, in addition to factories.

There is a push now to legalise a Prohibited Substance in the WADA Code (Section 8), Cannabinoids, in this nation, much of it is being built on emotionalism instead of what WADA and others have proven. In light of seeing cannabinoids being found in the body of a sprint car driver killed after ignoring authorities in a New York State sprint car race and then suing an Nippon Telegraph and Telephone and Monster Energy champion who is under the WADA Code for an FIA Grade 1 licence (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup drivers must have an FIA Grade 2 licence; Nippon Telegraph and Telephone INDYCAR drivers must have FIA Grade 1), the dangers of pot as a while, and the dangers of such, people are being fed a bucket of lies to support legalising marijuana, despite its dangers. This endorsing of pot recently forced NBC Sports, in association with Feld Entertainment, to block a cannabinoid advertisement from a Supercross motorcycle because of policies enacted by the FIM and WADA. Yet the push for more drugs is part of the idea there should be no standards but their own feelings.

The propaganda being pushed emotionally towards legalising pot will lead to a transition to full pot legalisation, as we have seen in too many states. We cannot follow along with the blind and legalise such illicit substances on a Prohibited List of the WADA.  If this happens, many common weekend warriors and workers will be punished as others try to pass their dangerous substances through to force a failed drug test. The cost of marijuana is too high, as our state's Attorney General, Alan Wilson, has noted.

Have we come to a full era where "Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll" are now glorified in a dangerous way?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Wish I'd written that

W
hat a city it was for its public buildings, as immense as grey granite mountains. They built them big just to remind you of the importance of the state and the comparative insignificance of the individual. That just shows you how this whole business of National Socialism got started. It’s hard not to be overawed by a government, any government, that is accommodated in such grand buildings. And the long wide avenues that ran straight from one district to another seemed to have been made for nothing else but columns of marching soldiers."

— Philip Kerr, The Pale Criminal

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Throwback Thursday: what's in a word?

While I was working out tonight, I noticed one of the gym television was tuned in to CNN (you don't think I'd have my own TV tuned to that, do you?), and their political shout show had the headline "Trump Can't Stop Tweeting."

Now, since I wasn't listening to the show or reading the captioning, I don't know if they meant he can't stop tweeting, or won't stop tweeting. One implies a psychological condition which, I'm sure, the network's political correspondents are eminently qualified to diagnose; the other, a determination (or at least stubbortnness) on the part of Trump to do whatever he wants to do, regardless of the consequences. I lean toward the second interpretation myself, but the phrasing certainly implies the first one. But CNN wouldn't intentionally want to imply that now, would they?

That would be kind of like - oh, I don't know - saying that CNN was obsessed with Donald Trump. Does it mean they have a clinical fixation on him, or that they're merely operating with a political agenda against him?

They report, we decide.

Originally published August 7, 2017

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Opera Wednesday

From a 1963 telecast of The Bell Telephone Hour, the great Joan Sutherland—La Stupdenda—sings "Ah! Sento mio bell'angelo" from Bellini's I Puritani, an opera that Sutherland and her conductor husband Richard Bonynge helped rediscover.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Giving up the pope for Lent

If you’re wondering why I haven’t written anything about the pope lately—well, it's Lent. Usually you think about giving up something good, or fun, for Lent. Cookies, chocolate, movies, things like that. But you also give up things in order to improve yourself, and nowadays just about any time you read about the pope, it becomes a near occasion of sin—an opportunity for anger, for detraction, for an entire variety of sins. So think of this as me giving up kvetching for Lent—or trying to, anyway.

In truth, though, there doesn’t seem to be much more to be written or said. As you probably know, I haven’t been shy about letting you know I’m not a fan of the incumbent pontiff; I even wrote a book about it a few years ago. It isn’t that there’s no news being made, nor is it that the pope has lost the power to shock or dismay. Sadly, that kind of thing still seems to be a frequent occurrence. Perhaps one can be heartened that more and more Catholics appear to be waking up to the damage this pope and his sycophants are doing to the Church, and yet the people who now hear the music aren’t, by and large, those who can do anything about it.

No, while I haven’t given up hope that things will change, it seems to me that just about everything that can be said about it has been said. It’s all so much preaching to the choir now, trying to find different ways to say what you’ve already said ten or a hundred or a thousand times before. It’s kind of like pounding your head against a wall, and I have enough problems with headaches that I don’t need to incur any more self-inflected damage.

Much of what has happened during the tenure of Pope Francis serves as a reminder that good and evil both exist in the world, and that there’s very little left that can truly surprise. You read a lot from people who use words like “breathtaking” to describe the latest egregious statement from the Vatican, but it’s easy to forget that there have been bad popes before, and we’ll probably continue to have them until the end of time. It is true that social media has a way of magnifying this evil, of expanding upon it and bringing it to light in a way that wasn’t possible with the Borgia popes, for example; it’s also true that a bad pope can do far more damage to the world today than he might have been able to do in the past, due to the ways in which the world is more interconnected than ever. So I’m not trying to minimize things when I say this, nor am I suggesting that people shouldn’t be angry with what they hear coming from the Church. One more sex scandal, one more coverup, one more statement of heterodoxy, one more line being drawn in the sand.

And the point is—what? That there simply isn’t any more to be said. There can be no more surprises to come from Rome, only continuations of what has come before. There is no pleasure to be derived from the umpteenth reference to the latest outrage, and no way to dress up the outrage that accompanies it. It’s tiresome, and it’s fatiguing. It’s also demoralizing and despairing, things that no Christian should allow to creep into his or her life.

In the end, then, there’s just not much that can be said. But whether it’s the first time you’ve heard it or the hundredth, that doesn’t prevent it from hurting, and confusing, and angering. It doesn’t prevent the honest person from acknowledging the wrongs that have been done, and it doesn’t prevent the dishonest to reiterate that there’s nothing to see, move along. It has, perhaps, accelerated the process of separating the wheat from the chaff, and that’s probably a good thing.

Otherwise, it’s more like a scab that, having passed the stage of causing pain, now itches with an insistence that is unstinting. We want to scratch that itch, we want to do it badly, even though we know we shouldn’t. It takes a lot to resist scratching it, picking at it until it begins to bleed. The itching, however, is a sign of change, of healing. If we leave it alone, it will eventually go away. But it feels so good to scratch it, just for a moment… (If I were to scratch, it would probably look something like this.)

For me, there’s no pleasure in picking at that scab. I still read about what’s going on; ignorance is never a good response to anything. It’s just that, well, I’ve run out of things to say about it, and about him. Until something new comes along, silence is the best I can muster. Would that the pope tried silence as well, even just once. It would save us all a lot of picking and scratching.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Responding to IThe Wall Street Journal's Question on Jackson and Kelly

Ia recent opinion piece that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, in light of the Michael Jackson (Leaving Neverland) and Robert Sylvester Kelly sex abuse reports, the article asked the question if people could listen to music of Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kelly following sexual abuse cases with both artists, with the article asking if art can be separated from unethical artists. That question was magnified even further as our shop is across the street from a Oneness Pentecostal church that meets in a building that at one time was a conservative Protestant church that ran from 1956-2001 and was sold to the Trinity deniers whose minister is now the city's mayor, allowing New York City Mayor de Blasio to speak (and later dance to Mr. Kelly's ditty from “Space Jam” that became one of his better known songs) about the praises of his socialism. What made it worse for me was how he defiled a building that historically made my youth and allowed it to develop a Biblical worldview. It raised the question as it was an expansion of the question I asked as I saw things that made my youth all disappear, asking that question in a 2011 post.

Back to the opinion piece that is the subject of this post, I returned to Albert Mohler comparing Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. He called Bach the perfect artist, while noting Mozart and Beethoven had serious flaws in worldview, calling out Mozart's Requiem for being unsatisfying even though it is moving, which I have noticed singing the piece myself, and Beethoven's pantheism makes it not suitable to use in church. In a like manner, knowing Leonard Cohen's worldview and how his “Hallelujah” is an ode to sex makes the song inappropriate in church, leading to one incident where I walked out of a church service over its performance. Similarly,  I called out “Spirit in the Sky” from Norman Greenbaum for a blasphemous lyric that required me to cite Romans 3:23 to compare the lyric to the verse, leading to a flame war where the song was defended.

In regards to The Wall Street Journal opinion piece with the question being asked, the doctrinal malpractice of Hillsong (including rejecting Biblical sexuality) we referenced in January makes it inappropriate. In light of the question over Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kelly, an incident at church occurred when a soloist sang (with karaoke) a hit from an immensely popular 1980's and 90's pop star who divorced his wife and became a “proud” sexual deviant during a Palm Sunday service. His morality cannot be separated from his music, and I was out of town that day so I did not see this. Nobody questioned it, but the congregation cheered without knowing the truth.  Add to that the numerous cases of Kundalini spirit teachings of Bethel and the false teachings of Hillsong, the answer to The Wall Street Journal opinion piece is no, since the false teachers, or in this case, the artists whose songs are being sung, are being funded with these pieces.

WORKS CITED:

“Can We Listen to Michael Jackson and R. Kelly the Same Way Again?,” The Wall Street Journal, 19 March 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-we-listen-to-michael-jackson-and-r-kelly-the-same-way-again-11553037593

Courtney Gross, “Mayor Spends Sunday Courting Potential Democratic Voters in South Carolina,” Charter Communications NY1 News, 11 March 2019, https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2019/03/11/mayor-spends-sunday-courting-potential-democratic-voters-in-south-carolina

Friday, March 22, 2019

Wish I'd written that

Vince was a grown-up. A lot of guys my age sported hair twice the length of mine, wore chokers of faux jade and faux teak, and favored bracelets carved from rhinoceros bone. Vince wore a watch. A thick, heavy, expensive watch. If he were ever kidnapped, he could turn that watch over to his captors and walk free, and they'd probably give him twenty dollars for cab fare home."

— Rupert Holmes, Where the Truth Lies

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Pope Francis Releases NCAA Bracket; Has Gonzaga Winning It All

(VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21) - Pope Francis announced his NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket today, and revealed that he thinks the championship will be won by the Gonzaga University Bulldogs.

In an exclusive interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy Father admitted that although he hadn’t had as much time to work on his bracket as he has in the past, he still feels confident about his selections.

“Gonzaga,” Francis said without hesitation when asked who he had winning it all. “I just have a feeling this is finally their year. Marquette could give them some trouble in the Sweet 16, but it they can get past them, I think they will go all the way."

In addition to Gonzaga, Francis’ other Final Four picks are Saint Louis in the East, Seton Hall in the Midwest, and defending champion Villanova in the South. When asked if he'd chosen Gonzaga because of its Jesuit connection, the Pope, himself a Jesuit, smiled. "We must stick together," he said. “I cannot say anything bad about the other teams, though. After all," he added to laughter from the reporters present, "who am I to judge?"

The Pope revealed that he had discussed his predictions with Emeritus Pope Benedict during a phone conversation the two had on Tuesday, but declined to reveal who the former Holy Father had winning the title. “I know he followed the selections avidly on Sunday. He and I disagree on some of the regions, but if he wants to share his choice with the world, I assume he will do so at the proper time.”

Francis expressed appreciation that this year’s Final Four, to be played in Minneapolis on April 6 and 8, does not conflict with Easter. “With the liturgies on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, it can be difficult to keep up with the results. Thankfully, this year that will not be the case.”

The Pope chuckled when asked whether his election as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church means that his bracket is now to be considered infallible. “The Catholic faithful are under no obligation to follow my predictions,” Francis said. “In fact, my colleagues in Buenos Aries might suggest one would better off if they didn’t. But it has been a good month so far - perhaps it is a sign that my luck is changing.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Opera Wednesday

No matter what it is that's bothering you, an overture written by Mozart can usually cure it, or at least make you feel a lot better. Case in point is this charmer, the overture to Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), first performed in 1782.* It's hard to imagine it not being just as sprightly to audiences at its premiere as it is to us today.

*The role of the benevolent Pasha, a non-singing part, was often played by Werner Klemperer, our beloved Colonel Klink.

This performance is by the Vienna Symphony, under the baton of Metropolitan Opera principal conductor Fabio Luisi, in a 2006 appearance in Japan. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dan Jenkins, R.I.P.

This story dates back more years than I want to remember. My wife and I were sitting around in the living room one night reading. I don't remember what it was she was looking at, but I had You Gotta Play Hurt, the new novel (at the time) by Dan Jenkins. It was about a sportswriter named Jim Tom Pinch, who bore a suspicious resemblance to Jenkins himself; Pinch was part of Jenkins' wacky universe, having appeared as a supporting character in Jenkins' best-known novel, Semi-Tough, as well as several others. This was a chance for Jim Tom to star in a story of his own.

My wife was telling me something funny from her book, and in retrospect what I should have done was stick a finger in my book and turn all my attention to her. Not that I was not paying attention, mind you (you don't stay happily married for 26 years by doing that), but by letting my eye continue to drift down the page while I listened to her, I was dooming her dooming her story to eternal obscurity.

The end of her story and the end of the paragraph I was reading came more or less simultaneously. As for what happened next—well, the only way to really do justice to it is to say that I completely, utterly, lost it. I had been confronted with a scene that was beyond Jenkins's usual level of absurdity; it was so outrageous, so utterly ridiculous, that there was no possible way I could have reacted otherwise. I suspect it was the reaction Jenkins was hoping for; I like to think that when he'd finished the paragraph, he might have read it over and had a good chuckle himself. I was able to go one better than that, though—perhaps several times better.

Had my wife not known me as well as she does, she might have thought I was suffering from convulsions, or was perhaps about to throw up. As it was, there was nothing she could do but sit there and watch as I spent five minutes, maybe ten, cackling hysterically. Have you ever seen the famous clip of Steve Allen laughing uncontrollably at some blooper he'd committed? If you have, you'll know what I mean. And if you haven't, here it is. The description calls it a "laughing fit," and that's what I suppose it was. I was trying to keep the tears from getting the pages of the book wet, and whenever I tried to tell her what it was I'd found so unaccountably funny, I was only able to get a word or two out before I started all over again. She wasn't offended that I was ignoring her story, I don't think. I'm a serious enough person that I think she's usually just happy to see me laughing. It was, without question, the single funniest thing I have ever read, seen, or heard in my nearly fifty-nine years on this planet. And what was so funny, you might ask?

I'm not going to tell you.

Don't be offended, though; the point of fact is that in the twenty-some years since this happened, I've never told anyone what it was that was so funny. The only person I ever did tell was my wife, when I was eventually, after repeated attempts, able to get it all out in a somewhat coherent form. She agreed that it was, indeed, very funny, although perhaps not quite as funny as I thought. But that was, to this day, the last time I've even read that scene, let alone tried to describe it to anyone else. I suppose I'm afraid I'll find out it wasn't as funny as I originally thought it was, which would not only be disappointing, it would ruin a story I've been able to live off of for nearly thirty years.

I kind of doubt that, though. Maybe I wouldn't react the same way I had that night, but then again maybe I would have. That's the kind of writer Dan Jenkins was, after all. He was, quite simply, the greatest sportswriter ever, and I'm not even going to try and equivocate by adding "one of the greatest," or "arguably," or "possibly," or any other way of trying to hedge my bets. He was the best of all time, period, and he'll continue to be for as long as his writing is in print.

Dan Jenkins died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 90, and he certainly doesn't have to worry about his work being forgotten. I'm not going to attempt to recap his career; I'll leave that to two excellent articles, here and here. And for those of you who say this story has been more about me than about Jenkins, I'd answer that this is perhaps the way it should be. One of the reasons Dan Jenkins was a great sportswriter was that he was also a great storyteller. And what better way to remember a great storyteller than with a story of my own, one that in the end really tells you more about him than it does about me. I'd like to think that he might even have enjoyed my story, although he might also have given me one of those sideway glances that you could almost see, so vividly did he describe them.

I daresay that as long as people read sportswriters (and I mean real sportswriters, which you can still find from time to time, not what passes for writing nowadays), they'll be reading the books and articles and (yes) tweets by Dan Jenkins, and learning, and laughing. What writer could possibly ask for any more of a legacy than that?

Come to think of it, maybe I'll read that story again, after all. My bet is that it will still be just as funny as it was all those years ago All the same, I'd better make sure my wife isn't trying to read to me at the same time.

Monday, March 18, 2019

All Class -- Thanks, Debi!

We discuss television often, primarily on the other blog, but this report that came to my attention tonight is a time to say "thank you" to a legend who just announced her  retirement after 43 years.

Debi Chard, the affable Iowan who moved to South Carolina in the early 1970's, serving part-time as a legal secretary to Jean Toal and was a radio news reporter in her early career, moved down 26 in 1976 and joined WCSC-TV as a reporter and anchored the Saturday news broadcasts. Her career later made her a top-level anchor and allowed her to be the fourth cog in WCSC's legendary Bill Sharpe, Charlie Hall, and Warren Peper newscasts when it expanded in 1991. After 43 years, she announced 
her retirement on their Thursday evening newscast.

I remember growing up watching her do news.  Now she's retiring after a wonderful career.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Psst - are you running for president?

Pardon me, but by any chance are you running for president of the United States? The reason I ask is because it seems as if just about everyone is, so I didn’t want to offend you.

At least count, 581 people have filed with the Federal Election Commission that they are candidates for president, or at least contemplating it. John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, became the latest to jump in the pool this morning. There’s the incumbent, of course, along with growing number of (past and present) congressmen, senators, governors, mayors, authors, businessmen, self-help gurus, and maybe Mabel who lives just down the street. They aren’t all credible candidates, of course; some of them are what would politely be considered longshots, candidates for whom everything would have to break the right way for them to have a chance. Some of them are vanity candidates, people who want to see their names in print and don’t really care if they get any votes or not. Some of them are delusional, like those you read about who get six or seven of their friends together and suddenly they pronounce themselves the new pope. And some of them are Marianne Williamson. Or Cory Booker.

For each of those 581 candidates that have thrown their hats in the ring, you can bet there are two or three others who’ve thought about it, or would like to. Why so many people pine for the nation’s top job is something of a mystery to me. I wanted it once myself, and planned for it, but that was when I was young and impressionable and heavily involved in politics. As Saint John (and Ingmar Bergman) might have said, I was looking through a glass darkly. Thankfully, I’ve since given up those childish dreams, but it appears a lot of people haven’t. It seems to me as if the job itself is nothing more than four (or eight) years of grief, with your opponents calling you all sorts of horrible and grotesque names, and your allies spending half their time stabbing you in the back while they work on their plot to succeed you. Honestly, it’s as if House of Cards was some kind of how-to show on the DIY Network.

It’s true that one has to have a healthy ego to succeed in politics; it’s equally true, it seems to me, that one doesn’t become interested in politics, doesn’t take the step into seeking elective office, without harboring, in the dark recesses of the mind, the dream of hearing “Hail to the Chief” as they stride across the stage with the crowd’s cheers ringing in their ears. And then the light turns green and the car behind honks, and real life intercedes.

We complain about the problems facing the country, we elect someone to deal with them, and then we spend four years complaining about the job that person is doing. Actually, we spend about four days complaining about it, and then candidates start lining up to take the job away. When John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon announced their candidacies for the presidency, they did it in the same year as the election. That’s the way it was done back then. Sometimes a candidate didn’t even make the announcement official until the time of the convention. When Jimmy Carter became a candidate two years before the 1976 election, people laughed at him. (We know who had the last laugh, don’t we?) Now we have candidates who drop out before even one primary vote or caucus ballot has been taken. Debates are held a year before the primaries. There’s even talk of first-in-the-nation New Hampshire moving their primary to December.

The results of this new-style politicking are obvious. By the time the election actually rolls around, voters have become detached from the process; everyone’s sick and tired of both the campaigns and the candidates, and sometimes I think people who vote early do so just to get the damn thing over with. You know what they say about familiarity breeding contempt; perhaps it’s something candidates should think about. We already know that, no matter who wins, people will be angry about the result. There will be allegations of voter fraud, murmurings about abolishing the Electoral College, even suggestions that we go to a parliamentary form of government. It’s a great way to kick off four years of presidential leadership, isn’t it?

There’s only one logical answer for this, and it’s so obvious it’s staring us right in the eyes.

It’s that we need more candidates for president. About 152 million, to be precise. That’s one estimate as to how many people are eligible to run for president of the United States, and from that it’s clear we’re nowhere near the number we really need. Seriously, it’s evident that nobody is happy with the choices before us, that everyone knows best, and that anyone we disagree with becomes manifestly unsuitable for anything, let alone the presidency. The answer, therefore, is for everyone to become a candidate. Even those who aren’t yet qualified—hell, why stand on ceremony? There’s probably a 50/50 chance the Supreme Court would agree, so why not try it?

If everyone was a candidate, and everyone voted for him or herself, then the election would end in a deadlock, with each candidate having one vote. At that rate, you’d only need to convince one person—a friend, family member, spouse or lover—to switch their vote, and you’d have the election in the bag. You’d be in good company; 24 times the winning candidate has failed to achieve 50% of the popular vote, from James K. Polk and Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. You’d also guarantee that as president, you’d have at least a 50% approval rating from your supporters. (Unless you have some kind of self-hatred complex.)

So c’mon, get with it! Time’s a-wasting; only 610 days until the 2020 election, and there’s a lot of work still to be done. At this rate, maybe I’ll even give it another shot.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Video trailer for "The Electronic Mirror"

I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in Minnesota we're still in the throws of winter, with another five inches of snow today and lows in the single digits. On a night like this, I can't think of anything better than to sit next to a roaring fireplace with a good book. Unfortunately, I don't have the fireplace, but I do have the book for you: The Electronic Mirror

Here's a brand-new trailer for The Electronic Mirror, in case you need help making up your mind:


My thanks as always to the fabulous Carol M Ford Productions for the production and narration of the trailer for The Electronic Mirror. Even if you've already got the book (and if you haven't, why not?) be sure to give it a look.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Wish I'd written that

A mystery is something that is beyond human knowledge and comprehension, which means that I should be wasting my time in even trying to investigate it. No, this case is nothing more than a puzzle, and I happen to like puzzles."

- Philip Kerr, March Violets

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Poetry Wednesday

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
     It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
     It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
     And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
     And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
     There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
     Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
     World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


-- "God's Grandeur," Gerard Manley Hopkins (public domain)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Green with envy

I figure I've seen two movies in theaters over the last three years*, and both of those were documentaries, so it's not surprising that I haven't watched the Academy Awards for many years. There's just no connection there for me anymore; it would be like watching India's version of the Emmys (they're called the ITA Awards, in case you were wondering) to find out what the most popular show in Delhi is. That doesn't mean that I've completely stopped paying attention to the Oscars, though; when you write about television, even vintage television, the entertainment pages have a way of making themselves known to you.

*Excluding RiffTrax and the Metropolitan Opera, of course.

I'll admit, though, feeling a certain sense of satisfaction Monday morning when I found out that Green Book had won the Oscar for Best Picture. It's not that I'm a big fan of Green Book, or a fan at all; nor do I have anything against the other contenders, such as Roma, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Black Panther. Since I haven't seen any of them, it's not as if I had a dog in the fight.

So why did Green Book's win please me? Primarily because it irritated so many other people. I'd read for months about the hate for the movie that existed in certain quarters: that it was a feel-good movie that ignored real problems in the country; that it was a warmed-over Driving Miss Daisy; that it presented a saccharine view of race relations in America; that it wasn't particularly factual. It was the kind of vituperation that usually indicates fear—fear that this pariah of a movie might actually come out on top. If I'd thought more about it, I'd have taken it as a sign to phone a bookie and place a few bucks on Green Book to win, and then I wouldn't have to worry about finding a new job.

For instance, critic A.O. Scott, writing in The New York Times, referred to Green Book as "a Road Trip Through a Land of Racial Clichés," and went on to describe it as "a sentimental tale of prejudices overcome and common humanity affirmed; that its politics will be as gently middle-of-the-road as its humor; that it will invite a measure of self-congratulation about how far we, as a nation, have come."

But—what's wrong with that? Aren't these supposed to be the kinds of things we want? I thought it was a good thing to overcome prejudice and affirm common humanity, and even if it hasn't happened universally, shouldn't we celebrate that it might at least have happened between a couple of people? One step at a time, right? And what's wrong with middle-of-the-road politics—we're always being encouraged to reject extremism, aren't we? As for being self-congratulatory, I think such critics could use a healthy dose of perspective; while we as a nation may still have a ways to go before becoming the country we hope to be, only someone in total denial would suggest that we haven't come a long way from the '60s, or the '40s, or the '20s. Honestly, it makes you think these people don't want things to get better, because then they wouldn't have anything to scold about.

Scott's arrogant review points out precisely why I was glad Green Book won, why so many non-critics saw the movie as a likable story with occasionally pointed humor. The more perspective columnists point to a backlash against the anti-Green Book campaign, not unlike that which swept Donald Trump into office in 2016. Perhaps it's not a like-for-like comparison, but the left seems hopelessly, myopically, unable to comprehend that most people don't like to be told what to think, and they certainly don't like to have someone condescend to them. We're not fools—we know Green Book isn't a documentary; we understand that America isn't a perfect nation. Does that mean we can't go into a darkened theater, or sit in front of our televisions for a couple of hours, and just enjoy ourselves with a movie, without being lectured to, or hectored, or scolded for chuckling at a joke we think is funny?

The idea that movies have to have a politically progressive viewpoint, that they have to confront social issues by espousing a comfortably leftist ideology, that you cannot be entertained without having to sit through some kind of political indoctrination—well, it's a cliché to say that it would be humorous if it weren't so sad, but it's true. There is no enjoyment for this kind of person unless it comes with a devil's bargain: buy your fun, get a free helping of social justice. It's a BOGO from hell.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't be demanding in our standards for better forms of entertainment. Maybe Green Book really isn't a very good movie; more than one critic suggested that it was a mediocre year for movies and that none of the nominated films are without significant flaws. But even if that is the case, surely there has to be a middle ground between the kind of movies on the Hallmark Channel and the Goebbels propaganda machine.

Or maybe not. Maybe that's the kind of "middle-of-the-road" entertainment that people like A.O. Scott so scornfully ridicule. For them, there is only one kind of movie, only one form of entertainment, only one candidate to vote for, only one way to believe.

And as long as they think that way, there will always be Best Picture winners like Green Book for them to hate.
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