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
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