Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes
And pu'd the gowans fine
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot
Sin' auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl't in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne.


And surely ye'll be your pint stoup
And surely I'll be mine
And we'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.


Robert Burns, 1788

Notable Quotables, 2008

By Bobby

The 2008 edition of Notable Quotables is here, and I've released a list of quotes I've made in various e-mails, comments, and other places. I hope some of these will make you think of what we can say!

"The first time I had heard the term '7-Eleven' music in regards to modern worship came many years ago at my former church (which no longer exists). The term is a colloquialism for the fact many of the songs are simply 'seven words sung eleven times'. In other cases, they have been compared to New Age (especially Buddhism, which is the modern version of Baal worship, with these extravagant Buddhas reminiscent of the classic Baals of the past) mantras because they are consistently repeated."

-- On the popularity of "worship music" that lacks theology.

"Somehow that snarling bear has decided to drill me and I had to react to Mad Dow Disease that struck when those two parts of my ING IRA went crashing down on me today as I was thinking of singing!"

'O cessate di piagarmi, O la scia te mi morir . . . O la scia te mi morir . . .'

"I almost wanted to do the Old School (Jim) Cramer tactic of throwing that chair across the room (Are you ready, ski daddy?) to start the TD Ameritrade Lightning Round!"

-- To my voice teacher. Two stocks had dropped badly one day in January, and I went a bit satirical, considering the song I was learning.

"Consider eighteen years ago in high school, I met a certain 'America's Sweetheart' from 1984 -- and Thursday I can show why I say age is an issue . . . Guess who turns 40? Call for a partial knee replacement! (Saw her mug on a billboard for that on New Year's Day whilst travelling.)"

-- on Mary Lou Retton-Kelley's birthday on her birthday. I met Retton in 1990.

"One night on a drive home, the station (that carried Dr. Laura Schlessinger's show) had a song which I enjoyed as bumper music ('My Life Is in Your Hands,' Kathy Troccoli and Bill Montvilo). Dr. Laura commented following the break, 'Someday, I'll master these notes'. I chuckled and on a dare with a friend (the one whom I went to Nashville last spring for her wedding), wanted to sing that very song at a BCM Coffeehouse! A few months later, Holly Gatling and I worked to get Special K to speak at the March for Life because of a promotion of the then-39-year old Long Islander. "

--About an old Dr. Laura joke. Kathy turned 50 June 24.

"To modern liberalism, keeping self-esteem means more, and losing is acceptable. That is unacceptable when we are at war."

-- On the “Just lose, baby” attitude of liberals.

“. . . probably would say something about it if the setting was changed from operas where the setting was not originally from Egypt (i e a Gianni Schicchi performance in Nouvelle-Orléans last year set there., not in Fiernze)“

-- I asked my voice teacher if performances called “Opera on the Nile” were based on either familiar operas or l'opéra nouveau.

"The first two times (going eastbound on 29th Street) around it seemed flat, but the final time around (westbound to the finish) it was a climb -- I was dehydrated and weak, and headed towards the finish."

-- To my voice teacher. At the performance, Nicholas Smith discussed the da capo style of singing. The ornamentation reminded me of my thoughts as I ran 29th Street during the Bi-Lo Marathon. I am training for the 12th renewal of the Myrtle Beach classic February 14.

"To (youth), dancing to 'Saviour Song' or 'Call Him Up,' was more fit for church than singing 'Crown Him with Many Crowns,' singing an unadulterated Isaac Watts or Charles Wesley hymn, or reading the Bible. What does it say about children in church when they are fed the poison of the postmodern philosophy that even bashes the Bible and God's Word?"

-- on the Emergent Church

"She cannot sing, and I say that because it has to be amplified and brought down by the beat that there is no message to any of the songs. I have a garnet-and-black soprano friend (Ainsley, I think you'd know what that means) who can outsing this prostitute, and understands technique of what it means to sing -- not yelp, wheeze, or whine, which is the 'music' of this Ashley Dupré. This prostitute cannot sing and is using this story to cash in on her lack of talent on 'singing'. What if she went to college and was a cellist for an orchestra?

-- on the Spitzer call-girl scandal, and the offender herself. This was written to a Fox and Friends Weekend host (now assigned to Hannity) and I graduated from the same university, around the same time, so the reference is intentional.

"Oh, by the way: I was surprised that Jason (Castro) wasn't tossed from Idol after his performance Tuesday. He sang Grizabella's aria from Cats, and Paula (Abdul) defended it as a 'pop ballad'. That aria is Grizabella's lament at her old age, and is the signature aria of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. But the one who was ejected was tossed for not interpreting the song properly!"

-- A commentary to a friend on the April 23 Idols. One contestant on Andrew Lloyd Webber night (a male) sang “Memory” from Cats. Knowing the song's content, it was not appropriate for him to sing it.

"The reason the '4' is not used in parts of Asia comes from the fact when said (in Chinese especially), '4' sounds similar to the word for 'death'. 'F' is the first letter of 'FOUR' in English and obviously, hospitals in Taiwan do not have a Floor #4 for that reason.

At Florence's Darlington Raceway, the home of a Grand Slam event for NASCAR until a lawsuit was filed to replace it with a race in Fort Worth, TX, the pit stall #13 was never marked. The thirteenth Southern 500 in 1962 was called the 'Twelfth Renewal of the Southern 500' (there would be 55 before it was sued out of existence) for that reason."

-- Ken Jennings asked why the number 4 was not used on elevators in Asia, especially in hospitals.

"With some of the lyrics in 'modern worship' being nothing more than sappy secular pop love songs, and aimed at anyone (not God), the concern has grown to a boiling point for me. Maybe it's because I've aged and have had the experience of knowing young aspiring pastors through friends in college, but one thing I can assure you is much of today's 'contemporary Christian' is actually 'positive hits' -- code for secular pop tunes. Positive hits is the direction the record label bosses want considering that it sells the most."

"Some of the 'garbage' that goes for 'modern worship' is devoid of theology and doctrine, and the worst part is we have a generation that does not know sacred song. They won't stand for Händel's 'Hallelujah' from Messiah, but they will stand for Chris Tomlin or the next big megarock artist (as shown at a friend's wedding in Nashville I attended). When you've sung Händel for a friend's church production of selections of Messiah, and attended a few sing-alongs, and seen that Laurel, MS soprano for another with the South Carolina Philharmonic, what happens? When you've sung 'O Rest in the Lord,' 'Crucifix,' and 'Panis angelicus,' what does it say about your vocal resume when you look at the songs that go for 'modern worship' and see no theological content?"

-- To a friend on “modern worship” songs.

“If (kids dancing to 'Every Move I Make') is what the kids want in church, and do not want a Hill or Cuttino solo from Haydn's The Creation, Händel's Messiah, or even an old-fashioned sacred song in the hymnal, we're in trouble. Years ago the kids wanted to dance to this song and nothing else. They still want only to dance in church. What gives?"

-- on a video found of kids dancing to the said “worship” song. I had seen a performance of The Creation in June with my voice teacher as soprano soloist.

“The hot dog eating contest was disgusting that I had no inkling of even wanting to watch it. Fortunately, I was on my way home after running as one of 55,000 in the XXXIX Peachtree Road Race yesterday, having checked out, I had a sit-down lunch with no worries about watching anything insane.

It's better to be one of 55,000 runners at the Peachtree Road Race climbing hills, going 10,000 meters, instead of watching twenty eaters eat too many hot dogs. “

-- to a Fox News reporter on the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating contest. As for the Peachtree, I clocked a 1:17:19.

“Rush Limbaugh has influenced the growth of modern talk radio and conservatism that liberals, fresh off regaining control of Congress and itching to snatch back the Presidency, want to knock off talk radio and to push radio to offering only bad rap and rock music, and remove not just talk radio, but news and weather. Mr. Limbaugh's influence is huge, but it will drop out when federal laws outlaw news/talk radio to appease the 'Just lose, baby' crowd of liberals.”

-- on the plans of the Fairness Doctrine.

“Somebody at a church downtown, just a mile from work, didn't heed instruction during Seven Last Words of Christ, performed for Maundy Thursday. At times the microphones conked with the annoying sounds during the solos and during the performances. Poor Tina Milhorn Stallard was confused. (I've seen Mrs. Stallard more than my fair share of times, including Washington Street UMC Messiah Sing-along 2006.) The bonking amplification just made it impossible to hear 'O Sacred Head, Now Wounded' (the second verse was the soprano's solo) and even parts of the main piece.

I said back home at church, we need to redo the entire church leadership, and I recommended a real pipe organ, stating, 'An organ designed for a (classically)-trained voice is much better than a karaoke machine designed to be disc jockey for dancing kids, or 'singers' who are so weak they need the crutch of faking it to 'sound' good based only on the beat.'”

-- on bad amplification on a Maundy Thursday service. The original comment had a few sensitive names which I removed. Mrs. Stallard was the soprano in question (NOT Bobby's voice teacher!)

“The infamous bond between (my voice teacher) and (her friend) broke when (her friend's) beloved Cheeseheads traded a player near and dear to her heart (and from my teacher's backyard) to East Rutherford . . ."

-- This reference was made about my voice teacher and one of her friends, who had taught me voice for a year. The friend is from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and told me of her family of Cheeseheads. My voice teacher is from Mississippi, and naturally, the football player we're discussing is none other than . . . (see if you can answer that one!)

“I quit the choir at church when they started to go karaoke exclusively. For 'back to school' the production was the choir singing exclusively karaoke to these songs including 'Our Love is Loud.' When you're paying (amount has been removed for security reasons) to work with an opera soprano to take lessons, and the church music leaders are turning back on singing and taking the focus towards kids who dance to pop tunes with no theology, what gives?"

-- Someone wanted responses to a commentary on church music.

“This type of (age) fraud (at the Olympics) is an old Communist game. It wasn't just here in China. Kids do this with fake ID's to purchase alcohol and tobacco. Communists do this to show "superiority". Now we see there's more fraud, and when the most celebrated victim of this lives in Atlanta and has to show her real birth certificate publicly to show her real age at events, what do you expect?"

-- On the Chinese gymnastics age fraud scandals. Romanian gymnast Daniela Silivas admitted age fraud was taking place by the Communist government in Romania when the domicile of Cobb County (near Atlanta) applied for her marriage licence.

“Dippy junk . . . I can't stand it anymore. Choral books from Integrity actually had 'On Eagle's Wings' and it now appears in the hymnal I mentioned.”

“Good question on the dippy junk. I told a friend at church Sunday I have been away to others to avoid the 'dippy junk,' or as others call it, material lacking doctrine and theology. Somehow I think Bono (Kevin Manion, not the U2 singer) is in the Oval Office awaiting to enforce discipline on anyone called to the Oval Office for violations such as the 'dippy junk'.

-- to Cathy of Alex, on what she called “dippy junk” music in church.

“Furthermore, feelings is the dominant trend in the country because feelings is the only thing that counts regarding society today. Feelings is the only 'logic' behind the (current energy policy) that is forcing automakers into microcars with Japanese-style laws to prohibit family sedans and mandating 2-seat microcars, as is the ban on regular light bulbs, and other inefficient laws. Feelings is the logic behind the 1973 decision by the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from the list of disorders -- I still refer to it as one, and am attacked for saying such."

-- On the controversy of a “gospel” singer admitting (and being proud) of being a sexual deviant. Feelings dominate today, and that showed in the election of 2008.

“Imagine the #1 news-talk station changing from news-talk into an unpopular gangster-rap music format ordered by federal authorities in order to appease the new policy. It has all the workings of an RCTV (Venezuelan television station seized by Chávez because it ran anti-Communist policies). No wonder they are saying Obama has Chávez type aspirations. Could we see Obama rewrite laws with 60 in the Senate to eliminate the 22nd Amendment and create new rules that supress speech in order to mandate only the government can speak their propaganda?”

-- On a potential Fairness Doctrine.

“With all of the Emergent Church's idea of pop culture themes, I wonder why not all pop culture references are OK . . . I wonder if a church will attempt a Match Game themed sermon. Unfortunately, it might run aground of Saddleback. Match Game 90 host Ross Shafer and wife Leah are Saddleback members, and Leah has been on the "worship team" at the church.”

-- On the Emergent Church themes.

“Put an SUV (not a crossover) and a federally mandated microcar into Turn 1 at Texas Motor Speedway the way Michael McDowell did in his Toyota Camry recently at 100 MPH and see which is more survivable."

-- On the government's plans to force us into microcars and out of sport-utility vehicles.

“(Michael Buffer voice): The three judges ringside scoring on the ten-point must system tonight are F. Marc Rattray, Tina Stallard, and Walter Cuttino."

-- Someone commented Idols was a popularity contest, and not based on singing. I struck back with this parody. The prophetic irony was the person who introduced Cook and Archuleta for the finals on Idol.

"The Spartanburg Philharmonic is promoting a concert (sold out one of two nights) called 'Mother Earth'. The theme sounds very much to be of the 'worship of the planet' mentality of modern liberalism, if you ask me, and is the mentality of Al Gore, the Nobel Peace Prize organisers, and those dictators who wrote the Pelosi Energy Act of 2007."

-- on a concert promoted as "Mother Earth".

"So indeed, the 'fat lady sings' for Dan Cook, the man who gave us a Wagnerian approach to sports."

-- on the death of Dan Cook, who let us know in sports, it wasn't over until "the fat lady sings". I don't know if my voice teacher and I could say something about it.

"Some liberals now have the belief that the alteration of the song without the songstress' permission is a must, and it should stay politically correct. Now if you're singing the song with the politically correct lyrics, are you changing the entire message of the song? It has to, considering the way she wrote it."

-- on A Different Road (from June). The same could be said about "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," as I recently mentioned.

"The network of the bulls gets ready to fuel some alcohol-fueled beats."

-- on Versus with the IRL contract.

"I thought if I had attended a South Carolina Philharmonic concert 10 seconds late, I'd be locked out for 35 minutes. If I attended an opera 10 seconds late, I would be locked out for 40 minutes. When Darrell (Waltrip) did the gig for (the Nashville Ballet's) Nutcracker a few years ago (until last year, a male celebrity would play Mother Ginger in that production; in recent years it had been Tennessee Titan players who played the role!), if I was 10 seconds late, I would be locked out for 35 minutes."

"A few years ago, I went to a recital with my (voice teacher) in concert (she had a duet with the feature artist); I was late a few seconds and locked out for 25 minutes."

-- to a sportscaster. During the Subway Fresh Fit 500k in April at Avondale, AZ, Fox had overrun with the Yankees-Red Sox game, and the start of the eighth round of the NSCS event did not reach but the part of the crowd that did not get the NYY-BOS game. When the broadcast started, they were on the dogleg on Lap 1. Seven months later, ESPN cut the last 35 laps of the fall race at Avondale (see ESPN: Chase the Heidi Game II) to show prerecorded programming, which was Round 9 of the playoffs. Ironically, the sportscaster in question called the TB-MIN game that sent TB into the playoffs.

"A visit to the county fair, which usually is held in late September-early October, was a good time for me to help out and see friends, but not play the games this year. But churches were prevalent, and it showed how churches have declined in what is now offered.

All four churches that offered their services at the fair featured teen dance teams jiggling to all sorts of pop-rock music. If that is the only team that matters, what is that teaching us? God's Word is now eliminated in favour of the latest and greatest pop tune on the radio for girls to jiggle. Now this isn't Southern Strutt. This is supposed to be a church music ministry, and instead we offer teen girls to dance to pop tunes?

"I talked to a friend Monday at the fair (she has been on my side and sympathised after I told her that I had been virtually tossed for fighting the Emergent attitudes) and it's just sad what happened to churches. Teens dancing to pop tunes is more important than a choir singing masterpieces of sound doctrine and solid theology. The MTV effect has been successful in the move to teen dancers. Oh dear . . . "

-- on the County Fair with church performances.

"Ashley Force is now a member of the Powerade Drag Queen Club with her victory today in the Summit Racing Southern Nationals in Commerce, GA, and the first Drag Queen in a Flopper."

-- on Ashley Force's win. Current active members of the Full Throttle Drag Queen Club are Melanie Troxel, Ashley Force, and Hillary Will among the car group. There are plenty of bikers in that club too. To be a member, you must be a real woman who whips guys on the Christmas Tree down 1,320 foot (or 1,000 foot in nitro classes).

Hit and Mitzi

By Mitchell

Well, it's been a busy month here, and I owe you some reviews. So let me start with the new DVD Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle! The Special Years.

I don't know how many of you remember Mitzi Gaynor, but it's a pity that more people don't. Her biggest role was that of Ensign Nellie Forbush in the 1958 film version of South Pacific. After that she had a very successful run in Vegas with her own show. Mitzi Gaynor could do it all: she was vivacious, she could act, she could sing - and boy, could she dance.

And from the first moment of her 1968 special, simply entitled Mitzi, it was apparent that television showcased her talents to the utmost. It was a confluence of factors that made these annual specials, which ran between 1968 and 1978, so spectacular. By 1968 color TV was hardly a novelty, and these shows take full advantage of the color saturation that was common to the era, with hues that fairly leap off the screen.

Then too, broadcast standards had eased somewhat by then (this was the 60s, after all), and the costumes by designer Bob Mackie played this to the hilt. The fabrics often appeared nude or semi-nude, accompanied by a judicious placement of spangles. (Mackie later adapted some of these costumes for use by another of his famous clients: Cher.)

The specials were loaded with big-name guest stars of the era; some of their names might not mean as much to you now as they did then (Mike Connors, Ross Martin, and Ken Berry), while others should ring a bell (Jerry Orbach, Suzanne Pleshette, Michael Landon and George Hamilton, to name a few). And they featured great production numbers, mostly choreographed by the great Tony Charmoli.

But the biggest asset to these specials was Mitzi herself. Between her terrific dance moves, the Mackie costumes, and her own formidable figure, one can only regret that these were not originally telecast in HD. (Or perhaps not; Mackie mentions one Mitzi dance that the network censor deemed a little too provocative, ordering her to be shown only from the mid-upper body up.
The disc shows, for the first time, the full-body footage as it was originally shot.) Need more evidence? Check out the trailer below:

So why have I gone on for so long without telling you much about this DVD? Because it's important for you to know why you should want it. The hour-long program features highlights from Gaynor's eight specials, along with comments by Gaynor, Mackie, and others such as Kristin Chenoweth, Carl Reiner, and choreographer Charmoli. Now, since this show is popping up on public television pledge drives all over the place, you might figure that you'll just wait and let the DVR take care of it. Which is where you'd be wrong. The extras on this disc are wonderful; over an hour of features, including extended musical numbers from each of the specials, a sit-down (or more like a stand-up) with Mitzi and Mackie, reviewing the designs for some of her outfits, and Mitzi herself sharing stories of her career (including her headline appearance on the Ed Sullivan show - which just happened to come on the same night as the Sullivan TV-debut of the Beatles!).

This is a slick, good looking disc from City Lights Home Entertainment, with sharp graphics and a menu that's easy to maneuver. If there's one bone to pick (and it's a slight one), it's that many of Mitzi's co-stars are not identified by on-screen graphics. Yes, it's true that at the time they were all well-known, but viewers today who might be drawn in by Mitzi's charisma might wonder who that clumsy dancer was in that very funny bit. (Hint: it was Michael Landon.)

Mitzi Gaynor's specials ended in 1978, and that's probably about right. By then the era of the big-budget variety special was well on its way out, and although Mitzi even managed to survive the disco era, the format was living on borrowed time. But for those among us who remember those glory years, along with anyone who wants to see what those big, high-rated TV specials really looked like, you couldn't do much better than Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle! The Special Years.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Time For a Little More Christmas?

By Mitchell

Tomorrow I'll have a review of the new DVD Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle! The Special Years. But in the meantime here's a clip of Mitzi from her 1967 Christmas special on the Kraft Music Hall.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas

By Bobby

We are in the middle of what is commonly called "the twelve days of Christmas," and many different thoughts have been made about the song. But what we're learning as we go through the "golden rings," "laying geese," and "swimming swans," or even the "milking maids" we celebrate on New Year's Day is that the terms have more serious Christian messages that were in code. This was shown at a poster in church recently

Much of it was based on religious imagery, as it was written in 1780. But many Christians have used the song as an allegory to Christmas, similar to the poem read by Wink Martindale regarding playing cards and a soldier.

What are, as legend says, is the code of the song?

"True Love" - God

"Me" - Believers

"Patridge in a Pear Tree" - Jesus Christ on the cross. The Savior is referred as a mother partridge who fakes injury to protect her children, and even willing to die for them. It is said this tree refers to the fall of man because of Adam and Eve, and the redemption of Christ on the Cross.

"Two Turtle Doves" - The Two Testaments of the Bible (Old and New)

"Three French Hens" - The Three Gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 13 - Faith, Hope, and Charity

"Four Colly Birds" - The Four Gospels who sing the song of salvation. In the New Testament, it refers to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

"Five Gold Rings" - The First Five Books of the Bible, also referred as the Jewish Torah. They are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

"Six Geese a-Laying" - Creation, as mentioned in Genesis 1. It took six days to create Earth.

"Seven Swans a-Swimming" - As mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-13, in the Catholic Church, it refers to the Catechism. They are wisdom, knowledge, judgment, courage, understanding, piety, and the fear of God.

"Eight Maids a-Milking" - The Eight Beatitudes, mentioned in Matthew 5.

"Nine Ladies Dancing" - The Fruits of the Holy Spirit - Galations 5:22-23. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

"Ten Lords a-Leaping" - The Ten Commandments, as found in Exodus 20.

"Eleven Pipers Piping" - Eleven Faithful Apostles - Simon Peter, Andrew, James (son of Zebedee), John (James' brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (tax collector), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot. Found in Matthew 10:2. A twelfth apostle betrayed Christ, and is not mentioned.

"Twelve Drummers Drumming" - The Apostle's Creed, a fundamental document of faith.

Belief in God the Father, Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and Earth
Belief Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.
Was punished by Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead, and buried. Descended into Hell.
Rose from the dead on the third day.
Ascended into Heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father.
Judges the quick and the dead.
Believe in the Holy Ghost
Believe in the holy universal (some Catholic), and the Communion of Saints.
Believe in the Forgiveness of Sins,
The Resurrection of the Body,
And Life Everlasting.

Interestingly, one famous setting of the Apostles' Creed is the song "Creed" by the late Rich Mullins (1955-97), a singer-songwriter from Richmond, Indiana. The irony of his death came because he was helping independent singer-songwriter Mitch McVicker with a new album the young artist was recording, and on the way to a concert after a recordiing session, Mullins and McVicker were thrown from their truck in a crash. Neither wore their seat belts, and Mullins was hit by a passing truck, and killed instantly. McVicker was injured but survived. Eighteen months later at the GMA Dove Awards, Mullins and McVicker had won Song of the Year for "My Deliverer".

The irony of neither man was wearing a seat belt in the highway crash came when they had won the award, since the presenter of the award to McVicker and also to Mullins' brother David was a popular female vocalist compared to Susan Lucci for her inability to win awards (she won her first the previous year, and another award that year), and a triple NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion of the 1980's who wore six-pointed safety harnesses, full-face helmets, and later, the HANS device.

And what do those twelve days mean?

The twelve days is the Epiphany, or the day the Wise Men came to visit the Baby Jesus. That is celebrated January 6. So celebrations of the Advent, sadly, have been omitted in recent years. But we should remember why we celebrate Christmas, and this list shows the interesting meanings of it.

This Just In

By Bobby

NFL Docs Pull Plug on Lifeless Lions
Management Cited for "Failing to Field a Team"

(NEW YORK CITY -- December 29) The National Football League Competition Committee has voted unanimously to terminate the Membership of the Detroit Lions, effective immediately.

The termination of the Membership was ordered by the Board upon an investigation into the 2008 season of the Lions, where management was found to have failed to field a team for play during the 2008 season. Under the by-laws of the National Football League, failure to field a team is grounds for automatic termination.

The NFL stated in a news release, "We are very disappointed for our fans, league partners, and other member teams. The NFL would like to thank the Detroit area fans for their support of the Lions for over 70 years. However, by the organisation failing to field a team for play in 2008, and instead fielding jobbers, the Competition Committee has declared the Membership must be immediately terminated."

The search for a 32nd franchise is being immediately conducted to find a replacement team as soon as possible, and the League hopes to find the new franchise, regardless of city. However, it is expected the city of Los Angeles is highly expected as one of the cities in contention for the new franchise. That area has not had an NFL team since the 1994-95 season. Such a franchise would begin play immediately in 2009-10, with the entire roster of jobbers on the former Lions squad being available for the new team.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Carol For Another Christmas

By Mitchell

Once upon a time the Christmas season didn't just automatically end on December 26 - it actually lasted all the way through New Year's Day. The time between Christmas and New Year's was a time for parties; for example, the Andre champagne commercial I linked to the other day always ran after Christmas. Ads for the New Year's parades and bowl games clearly were packaged as a part of the holiday season, complete with holly and berries. There are few things that get my goat at this time of the year more than seeing Christmas trees at curbside the day after Christmas.

This "Christmas after Christmas" extended to the TV programs we watched back then. A prime example is the made-for-TV movie Carol For Another Christmas, which was shown for the first and only time on this date in 1964. Read more about it here, in this excerpt from my TVParty! article entitled "The UN Goes to the Movies".

* * *

The first and probably best-known program in the series was Carol for Another Christmas, shown on December 28, 1964. Loosely based on the Charles Dickens’ classic, it boasted perhaps the strongest pedigree of all the episodes: written by Serling, directed by Academy Award winner Mankiewicz (his one and only foray into television), with music by Mancini, and featuring an all-star cast led by Sellers, making his first acting appearance since suffering a near-fatal heart attack. Sellers epitomized the contribution many made for the series, working for $350 rather than his customary $250,000 fee.

Serling’s modern-day version of A Christmas Carol tells the story of Daniel Grudge (Sterling Hayden), a wealthy industrialist still mourning the death of his son Marley (Peter Fonda, whose scenes were cut from the final version and appears only as a portrait hanging from the wall) on Christmas Eve, 1944. Grudge, embittered by Marley’s death, has become an isolationist, opposing American involvement in any international situation.

Into his unhappy life come three ghosts: Christmas Past, (Steve Lawrence), a World War I doughboy who shows Grudge the need for diplomacy by taking him on a trip to Hiroshima, showing him the ultimate horror of war; Christmas Present (Pat Hingle), an epicurean spirit demonstrating the selfishness of modern man by feasting on fine foods while starving war refugees stare from behind barbed wire; and Christmas Future (Robert Shaw), who takes him to a post-apocalyptic world peopled by a sect of survivors led by Sellers, playing an original character called Imperial Me.

Sellers’ character, the greatest departure from Dickens’ story, appears to be a ridiculous character, dressed in cowboy hat and pilgrim collar – but his message is anything but laughable. He parodies Grudge’s isolationism - “Each behind his own barricade! Follow me, my friends and loved ones, to the perfect society! The Civilization of ‘I’!” – with tragic results, as Grudge’s butler (Percy Rodrigues), trying to talk sense, is shot to death for his troubles.

Grudge returns to the present with a changed view, but it is not necessarily the glorious transformation of Dickens’ original. Grudge may concede the need for diplomacy and intervention, but it does not change the fact that the world is a brutal place.

The cast in “Carol,” which also included Ben Gazarra as Grudge’s nephew Fred, Eva Marie Saint as a Navy WAVE, and Britt Ekland (Sellers’ then-wife) as one of Imperial Me’s followers, was almost uniformly strong. In particular, the turn by Steve Lawrence, better known for his singing career with his wife Eydie Gormé, came in for critical praise, with Mankiewicz’s son Tom telling the New York Times years later that Lawrence’s portrayal was his father’s favorite. “He only knew Steve as a singer, but he really impressed him as an actor. He thought he was a natural.” Mancini’s score, particularly the theme (available on many Christmas collections) was also praised.

Despite this, however, the program itself received mostly negative reviews. Many critics saw the production for what it was – a noble but heavy-handed, preachy, moralizing effort. “Earnest” was the word that popped up often, stated or implied. It was an important project to the cast and crew, perhaps too important - C. O. (Doc) Erickson, production supervisor, remembered that “Joe and Rod were inspired to do it because they felt it was important to do the U.N.’s business and promote it.” According to Erickson, “I thought it was overdone. It was too long, too tiring and beat you over the head too much.”

This kind of heavy-handedness was not unique for Serling, who was given to lapsing into what Twilight Zone director Lamont Johnson referred to as “messianic moods.” This often happened when Serling felt strongly about his subject. “Serling has two poles in his writing,” said Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion. “There’s his powerful, human-oriented writing, and his very didactic writing, and ‘Carol’ falls on the didactic side.”

(Photo Credit: Peter Sellers as Imperial Me in Carol For Another Christmas; Courtesy Peter Sellers Appreciation Society)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods

This the scene in your home? (Minus the new Plymouth, of course.) If not, it should be!

On behalf of everyone at Our Word, the Merriest and Blessed of Christmases to you all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Message

By Bobby

As we come tonight towards Christmas Eve, and we head towards church tonight, most of us will do so at the appointed hour of 2300 hours, we understand that this is the time we celebrate the Birth of our Lord and Saviour.

Once we make it to these wonderful cathedrals and listen to the real music of Christmas that to those who understand it, we can once again assure that we know why we are here on this wonderful night.

We listen for those glorious songs of old, and can hear those strong words, whether it is the Magnificat, or the Messiah, or the Gloria, or even the hymns of old that no longer appear in the corrupted hymnals of today's denominations, those which have been made irrelevant by today's modern rock movement of the OCP, GIA, or the major secular publishers.

We then hear our clergy preach the message of the Advent of the Risen Saviour, and what His Birth over 2,000 years ago symbolises.

As we walk out of our church tonight, let us be reminded once again why we are here. We are to celebrate a birthday. We celebrate the Birth of our Saviour.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Dear Bloggers

By Kristin

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house.
Not a computer was stirring, not even it's mouse.
The ink pens were filled by blank paper with care,
In hopes that the writers soon would be there.
The bloggers were nestled all snug on the couch,
While browsing the op-ed’s, looking for something to write about.
And Ma with her memoir and I with my laptop,
Had just started writing, hopefully not the next flop.
When out in the study we heard such a noise,
At first I thought it was my brother, playing Pink Floyd.
Away down the stairs I flew like a dog,
In hopes that a comment had been posted on my blog.
The moon’s night light cast a still glow on the monitor,
As the cursor stood motionless, refusing to go farther.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a tiny envelope in the corner from Outlook, beckoning me near.
I darted to the chair, sat and double clicked,
A thought crossed my mind, “A note from my editor, Mr. Nick”.
Then more emails appeared, by the dozens, hundred, thousands,
“So many”, I yelled so loud to be heard in all the neighborhood houses.
I opened the first email, from Old Nick, of course,
“We have a masterpiece,” he wrote, “sitting before us”.
“This blog entry is spectacular, and not too soon it came,”
All the other emails from readers read practically the same.

What will happen to our Blogging Hero? Will his latest entry truly be the next great blog? Or was this a clever spam email just trying to get his attention? We will find the 25th approaches....

It's Not Politically Correct . . . It's How I Wanted it to Be!

By Bobby

The song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" had a controversial change to its lyrics when it was first sung in a movie by Judy Garland.

Songwriter Hugh Martin had a religious reference "Through the years we all will be together if the Lord allows," altered to remove religious references when it was first released in "Meet Me in St. Louis". In 1990, Michael O'Brien, a California clergyman, met Hugh Martin, who wrote the song, and explained the story of the politically correct incident. At the church where Mr. O'Brien was pastor, Mr. Martin played piano and Mr. O'Brien sang it as was requested by the writer. After Mr. O'Brien joined NewSong, the group recorded a Christmas album fresh off its megahit "The Christmas Shoes," and they recorded the song, as was requested by the writer, with the religious reference kept in the song, instead of luck.

Twila Paris and Kathy Troccoli have also recorded the song with the correct lyric.

What Lyrics Are These?

By Mitchell

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

You might not recognize this, but it is the chorus to the second stanza of the Christmas favorite, "What Child Is This."

Listen carefully the next time you hear it on the radio, when it's being performed by Josh Groban or Sarah McLachlan or SheDaisy or Carrie Underwood or any of today's pop stars. Look at the words in the hymnal when you sing it in church. Is this the version you hear?

It's a shame if it isn't, for these words show how the gifts of the three kings - gold, incense and myrrh - foreshadow the events to come. It serves as a reminder that while Christmas is a wonderful thing - the coming of God made man, after all - that it is much more than presents and decorations, than lovely songs and beautiful Christmas trees. It is about Christ's mission on earth, which will inevitably culminate in His suffering and death on the Cross on Good Friday, and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is a reminder that our own salvation depends on that suffering, and there is no way around it.

Here's a version that does feature those lyrics. It's performed by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Don't Be Late

By Mitchell

From the 1961 CBS series The Alvin Show, which featured the immortal adventures of Alvin, Simon and Theodore, this is the animated companion to the 1958 hit "The Chipmunk Song,"otherwise known as "Christmas Don't Be Late." Alas, one look at the new Chipmunk movie from a year or two ago, let alone the 80s revival, is enough to reaffirm my adage that remakes are seldom as good as the original. So enjoy the real Alvin and the Chipmunks!

Wish I'd Written That

By Drew

At The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru quotes John Judis, then adds his own coda:

"[M]any Americans feel they owe the Kennedy family something for their service." Beyond immunity from prosecution?

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

By Mitchell

And after a half-foot of snow this weekend, it certainly looks that way here. So who better to sing about it than Perry Como?

Como's TV Christmas shows were a tradition for 40 years; after his regular series ended in the 60s, his specials often took him to exotic places such as Mexico (1975), Austria (1976), Williamsburg, VA (1978), Israel (1980), Paris (1982) and Dublin (1994). His laid-back smoothness became something of an affectionate joke (SCTV's Perry Como: Still Alive), but there was no joke when it came to the talent of the barber from Milwaukee.

Here he is singing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" from his Christmas show in 1958.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Stencils!

By Mitchell

Do any of you boomers out there remember Christmas stencils on the window? You thought they looked really cool in the ads - trees and Santas and candles and wreaths and reindeer - and somehow conned your mother into going along with it. Only they never looked as cool in real life, and your mother was so mad she wouldn't talk to you for two days, or approximately the same length of time it took her to scrape it off the window afterward. And later on you wondered how you could have been fool enough to fall for this kind of scam.

Well, after looking at this commercial, maybe you'll get the itch to fall for it again. Then again, maybe not. And definitely don't let your children get any ideas about it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mr. Christmas

By Mitchell

Yes, Andy Williams is Mr. Christmas, one of the few entertainers remaining from the Golden Age of Christmas on TV. Here's a clip of him performing "Silent Night" from an early 60s Christmas special.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Response to Slate

By Bobby

In reading the column in Slate that Mitchell referenced (and also Cathy's comments), I was reminded of a few thoughts:

Slate is a liberal Web site that was founded by The New Republic editor Michael Kingsley, who was one of the first figures of the Left on the now-defunct CNN discussion programme Crossfire. Knowing the site's left-leaning roots, and one popular cause celebre is fringe environmentalism (a report on Fox News noted a while back the lobby of such is larger than of oil; now they control the government), they have a problem with NASCAR's tie-ins with Sun Oil and Exxon Mobil.

I also read a comment by McClatchy's David Poole on the subject.

One issue the columnist on Slate refused to discuss is racing safety versus saving planet earth. Safety in US motorsport has been mostly racer-led, and has been important for road vehicles. Obviously environmentalists do not remember the 1955 24 Heures du Mans, where Pierre Levegh's Mercedes ran over an Austin-Healy, flew into the stands, and killed over 80, leading to corruption in US motorsport as the American Automobile Association Competition Board disbanded. (Bill France was not a fan of the AAA; in 1950, France actually tossed out season-long points as some drivers raced in AAA-sanctioned races; ACCUS, which replaced the AAA as the national governing body of motorsport, has seven members currently – NASCAR, IRL, IMSA, SCCA, NHRA, Grand-Am, and WKA) His codriver, John Fitch, who was waiting his turn, became a racing safety advocate and began developing safety for both racing situations and street situations, such as the Fitch barriers on bridge posts. Furthermore, the environmental activists refuse to consider racing safety from the 1964 Indianapolis 500, where two deaths in the opening laps led to an alcohol fuel mandate that outlawed gasoline from that race. Sadly, when series such as the International Motor Sports Association does not understand that ethanol should never be mixed with gasoline in regards to how it is mixed (85% ethanol-15% gasoline or 90% gasoline-10% ethanol) because it destroys the reason alcohol fuel was used in racing (safety following that crash), it becomes a political weapon to race ethanol and not a safety reason, as was the reason at Indianapolis following that 500. A pit fire at Mid-Ohio this past season was worse because of the gas-ethanol mix that requires a special foam. (A pure alcohol fire can be diluted, as we've seen in the IRL.) Sportscar racer Jim Downing and his brother-in-law, Robert Hubbard, began developing a head and neck restraint after seeing fellow drivers die in basal skull fractures in various forms of racing. Now, almost every motorsport series has mandated a head and neck restraint.

When drivers were dying at an unusually high rate in the 1980's and into 1990's with “(Whelen Modified) Tour Type Modifieds,” (most notably Richie Evans, whose #61 is the only retired number in NASCAR, on the Whelen Modified Tour only, at Martinsville), tracks were looking at how to improve racing safety, using regular sytrofoam blocks to protect barriers. The barriers exploded on hard impacts, but the drivers were walking away and tracks needed very little time to simply replace the foam blocks. One of the most famous crashes was Jimmie Johnson's Watkins Glen crash in 2000 when he went nose-first into the styrofoam at The 90. The block flew and took the impact, but the former off-road star who was losing his sponsor (A new member of the sponsor's board of directors moved the sponsorship to his father's team) walked away without injury.

The recent development of the SAFER barriers and the Car of Tomorrow were both based on safety issues; NASCAR, the IRL, and others have wanted safety to take a bigger issue in motorsport as the ever-persuasive issue. Who knows if some of the innovations we have seen in the COT or the SAFER make it to street cars.

And speaking of that, why haven't we heard about the endurance mentality of a Sprint Cup race? Most races in sportscar racing are limited to under three hours with two drivers. IRL races are limited to usually two hours or less on street/road courses with the only race that is longer than three hours being the Indianapolis 500. On the other hand, all Sprint Cup races are at least 2 ½ hours long, and that means a Sprint Cup driver will be trained to race as endurance drivers compared to the sprint races everywhere else.

The columnist also refuses to understand issues such as the estate tax and activist courts in changing the schedule. First, estate sales forced the Staley (North Wilkesboro, in the Piedmont Triad, the #1 television market), DeWitt and Wilson (Rockingham, NC), Earles (Martinsville), and other families to sell their circuits to the major chains ISC and SMI because of the estate tax situation. The new chain owners, in addition to building their new circuits, wanted to buy these established tracks to take their dates away, and offer them to the new circuits they were building. What's even more of a concern is the Obama administration's plans to hike the estate tax back to Clinton-era levels or higher that would make things such as the forced sale of Martinsville Speedway (which the family admitted was a byproduct of the deaths of Clay Earles and later his daughter Mary Weatherford; track president Clay Campbell is the son of Earles' daughter Dorothy Campbell.) in 2004 that nearly led to a riot in the garage after after the track's iconic frankfurters were served differently by the new concession firm that took over after the sale. (The iconic frankfurters are well-known for their strong red color and toppings that would make Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi cringe if they were used for competition.)

Second, activist courts are peddling with the schedule. When NASCAR moved Florence's legendary Mountain Dew Southern 500 (in suburban Darlington) from September to November for the 2004 season, it was like scheduling a US Open-type course into a playoff situation that made the entire Chase tougher. Some fans disliked the move to the Los Angeles area for Labor Day, but NASCAR gave the Florence-Myrtle Beach market a reward by making it the penultimate event on the schedule, thereby making the fourth major tougher since it was not second to last in the regular season, but second to last in the playoff, making going for the championship even tougher, and a true wild card.

It took an activist judge and attorneys from The Cochran Firm (yes, that Johnnie Cochran) were able to force NASCAR to surrender the Florentine classic and give Fort Worth a second date on the schedule to appease the activists after NASCAR was sued. The more dangerous problem that developed was a precdent that took place for all sport; you could now sue a sports sanctioning body to force a schedule change. It also removed what Kyle Petty compared to a “US Open” type course with one that golfers would call a “Tournament Players Club” type course. (Golf majors are not held on TPC courses.) It also reduced NASCAR from four to three majors. ( The schedule is now controlled by courts, and it allowed Kentucky Speedway to sue NASCAR because of what took place with the Ferko.

The precdent is concerning. How would a football fan like it if someone in Los Angeles sued the NFL to order the Green Bay Packers to be moved to Los Angeles? The NFL would fight it, but the attorneys would state that what the Ferko lawsuit did was create the perfect storm that if someone wanted to sue the NFL to move a team to Los Angeles, it was now permissable because of the lawsuit that took away the NASCAR major at the sport's version of Lambeau Field or Fenway Park.

As for driver personalities, the personalities have been a part of the sport, and still are. While some of the drivers are more polished than they were even 30 years ago, it should be considered that Ned Jarrett was one of the first to take a Dale Carnegie course nearly 50 years ago to help out his career. There are still the drivers who win so much and look vanilla, but there are still the wild drivers such as rookie Scott Speed, the “outlaw” Kyle Busch, and a few drivers who gain popularity with their hard-nosed racing. There are also drivers who learned in racing that when they started, they had to field their own cars with friends to prepare it. They knew one crash could take them hours and out of some races. Many drivers started racing that way and do not want to crash out knowing even with fancy sponsors and no worries about finances, they will race to protect their equipment.

As for complaints about the playoff, a playoff system has created the ultimate in go for broke racing. A while back Cale Yarborough said that drivers now must have a strong beginning, middle, and end of the season in order to win the championship. Drivers cannot coast any longer in the last ten races to a championship. Jimmie Johnson's playoff dominance in the five years of the system shows he has joined an elite list of athletes who turn up the heat during playoff situations and win in that atmosphere.

The ultimate goal of the column is to drive down the US automakers, which has been the goal of liberal activists since the 1975 and 2007 Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, passed by liberal majorities (veto-proof in 2007 thanks to procedural calls), and the 1978 National Energy Act that has regulated fuel economy with more severe penalties. With GM, Ford, and Chrysler's top-selling vehicles each being their mainline full-size pickup trucks, the liberals want to destroy them because the new Big Three (Toyota, Honda, Nissan) have as their top sellers mid-size cars available as a hybrid, a subcompact car, and a compact car. The ultimate liberal goal for the automobile industry is to force everyone into a two-seat microcar that has no safety but ultra-economical fuel efficiency where a Big One will kill the occupants.

Last-Minute Shopping Ideas

By Mitchell

Because, you know, nothing says "I love you" quite like a new vacuum cleaner...


End of the Road

By Mitchell

Ray over at Stella Borealis sent a number of us this article at Slate regarding the future of NASCAR in light of the economic and auto crises. So naturally I turned it over to our two NASCAR experts, Bobby and Cathy of Alex. We're still waiting to hear back from Bobby, but Cathy weighs in with her two cents' worth (and they're always valuable) here.

Yes, F1 faces the crunch as well, and although nobody's talked about getting rid of the Grand Prix cars, change is in the wind - or the exhaust, if you will. But that's a topic for another day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Carol of the Bells

By Mitchell

Another classic Christmas commercial that we don't see anymore - the sparkling "Carol of the Bells" commercial for Andre champagne, from the early 70s.

Wish I'd Written That

By Drew

"[W]hen the curtain goes up, I don't care whether the author of the show I'm about to see is a Republican, a Democrat, an anarchist or a drunkard, so long as he's taken the advice of Anton Chekhov: 'Anyone who says the artist's field is all answers and no questions has never done any writing. . . . It is the duty of the court to formulate the questions correctly, but it is up to each member of the jury to answer them according to his own preference.' That's what great playwrights do: They put a piece of the world on stage, then step out of the way and leave the rest to you."

Terry Teachout in The Wall Street Journal

Even Our Name Spells Christmas!

By Mitchell

I'm paraphrasing here, but someone once suggested that the best Christmas commercials were those that advertised a product you wouldn't buy the other eleven months of the year.

If that is the case, then among the best were Norelco's charming "Nöelco" commercials, the ones that started with Santa flying in on a Norelco shaver. Remember them? Here's an example from the 60s:

And here's a later one, from the 70s:

It's certainly a sign of age when we remember commercials that we find more entertaining than much of what passes for "entertainment" on television today!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Déja Vu, All Over Again

By Bobby

Last year, in preparation for the Washington Street UMC sing-along Messiah, singing with my voice teacher was like driving around Darlington with Jimmie Johnson spotting.

That analogy of the (now) three-time Sprint Cup champion made sense in a way last night at the sing-along Messiah.

While the alto and bass were new, the tenor and soprano were the same. That meant once again, the soprano soloist was none other than Bobby's very own voice teacher for the second consecutive year.

It seems some things don't change. Another Jimmie Johnson Sprint Cup, and Bobby's voice teacher singing the soprano solos in the sing-along Messiah. And both are good things.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Goalies Are Not Ours

By Bobby

The ECHL South Carolina Stingrays played the Florida Everblades Saturday with an odd roster list: the Stingrays carried two Emergency Backup Goaltenders (EBUG), which are players who are not paid (which allows the league to offer amateur goaltenders a one-time shot)

Because of the costs of travel among the five ECHL South teams (Biloxi,Charleston SC, Charlotte, Duluth GA, Fort Myers FL), the league made the Stingrays-Everblades game a double match, with games on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, the Stingrays were down to their #2 goaltender, Bobby Goepfert,when #1 goaltender Michal Neuvirth was recalled to Washington (NHL) in an attempt to find a backup goaltender after the Capitals had one goaltender injured. A local goaltender in a Fort Myers recreational league who is on the ECHL's list of EBUG's was called by the Stingrays to be the backup goaltender for the Friday game against the Everblades.

After the Stingrays win, Goepfert was called the next morning, as the Capitals affiliate in Hershey (PA) needed a goaltender there. Under ECHL rules, a team must suit up two goaltenders. Both Stingrays goaltenders were gone, and in order to meet the two-goaltender rule, and the ECHL's salary cap, the Stingrays had to play with two EBUG's, which are unpaid players. The Stingrays had to sign a single-A (Southern Professional Hockey League) goaltender as a technical EBUG because he was "recalled" from the SPHL to the AA-level ECHL. The SPHL goaltender was still able to give the Stingrays a win.

You might wonder how can a team get away with both goaltenders recalled, and having one rank amateur goaltender, and one goaltender under contract to a lower-level minor league for a roster Saturday. He might have played himself into consideration by an ECHL team or higher.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

May I Just Have One Moment...Please?

By Kristin

May I just have one moment...please? Between the dismal defeat of the Green Bay Packers and the ugly battle between the Cowboys and Giants, I saw a commercial on TV that I simply must comment on. Don't worry, this will only take but a moment. The commercial begins with a woman sitting on her couch attempting to preform a simple task. But the blanket she has wrapped around her simply won't do. It is cumbersome, heavy and just gets in the way (all this shot in a dreary black and white). The scene chances to a bright technicolor, (think Dorothy entering Munchkin Land) where our lady finds her self wrapped in a blanket with her arms poking out of two sleeves. Imagine if you were to put on a full length robe, but backwards. This is the product that is being marked to us. Really?! Ladies and Gentlemen, please resist the urge to buy this 'blanket'. Put on a sweatshirt.

But please, do not be tempted to purchase this product although I have provided a link to the website for viewing the television commercial. Do not let the clever editing and color contrast tempt you. Be bigger than the blanket, and put on a sweatshirt. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Sounds of the Season

By Mitchell

Although the song itself is not a Christmas one, there's no denying that this most unlikely video is perfect for the season: the stirring The Power of Love from Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Sounds of Christmas

By Mitchell

Once again this year, the great TVParty! site is featuring my article on the television opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, newly expanded and updated from last year. By the way, please do check out this site: it is a wonderful treasure trove of TV trivia (try saying that three times fast), and has an absolutely delightful series of articles on Christmas TV shows (these two, for example).

Now, for your viewing pleasure, here's a clip from the 1955 broadcast of Amahl, featuring Rosemary Kuhlmann as Amahl's mother.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

2008 is the New 2010 Is the New 2012

By Mitchell

Back in May, I wrote a follow-up to a February piece regarding the impact of the 2010 elections on the 2012 presidential campaign. In both pieces I stressed how important it was for any Republican presidential candidate to be out there campaigining for GOP candidates nationwide, not only helping them win but also picking up goodwill (and IOUs) in the process.

The model for this was 1966, when the tarnished Richard Nixon (loser in 1960 presidential race, 1962 California gubenatorial race) campaigned tirelessly for Republicans throughout the country. Following the 1964 Republican debacle, the GOP made significant inroads in the '66 elections, providing Nixon with a whole lot of both goodwill and IOUs - and credibility, which may just have been enough to help him hold off Ronald Reagan and win the 1968 Republican nomination, and subsequently the presidency.

My assertion was that the GOP needed a leader who could become the public face of the party: "[s]omeone to speak for the party in the media, to energize the base and rally the troops, to campaign for Republicans nationwide and hold the administration’s feet to the fire." Using history and precedent as a backdrop, I concluded that logic pointed in the direction of Newt Gingrich, and at this early date I'm still inclined to that opinion.

However, I also added this caveat:

McCain’s running mate might fit the bill, depending on who it is and whether or not this person had come through the campaign without being tainted by defeat or antagonizing activists in either wing of the party. A tall order, but parties have traditions of looking at former running mates as potential candidates, so anything’s possible.

Which leads me to the results of this week's run-off election for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, won handily by Republican Saxby Chambliss. Chambliss got a lot of national Republican support in winning that critical election, but none perhaps as important as that of the vice presidential candidate, one Sarah Palin:

“I can't overstate the impact she had down here,” Chambliss said during an interview Wednesday morning on Fox News.

“When she walks in a room, folks just explode,” he added. “And they really did pack the house everywhere we went. She's a dynamic lady, a great administrator, and I think she's got a great future in the Republican Party.”

Chambliss said that after watching her campaign on his behalf at several events Monday, he does not see her star status diminishing within the party.

The Republican also thanked John McCain and the other big name Republicans that came to Georgia, but said Palin made the biggest impact.

“We had John McCain and Mike Huckabee and Gov. Romney and Rudy Giuliani, but Sarah Palin came in on the last day, did a fly-around and, man, she was dynamite,” he said. “We packed the houses everywhere we went. And it really did allow us to peak and get our base fired up.” (H/T Greg Pollowitz at NRO's Media Blog.)

Now, 2010 is still a long way away, let alone 2012. But methinks the race for 2010 (which is really the starting point for 2012) has already begun. And although that race is sure to be a long one, if history is any indication there's one thing we know for sure: there's already a leader.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Music Reflections - My Messiah Adventures

By Bobby

A few days after I ran my first marathon (2004 Kiawah Island), and an informal recital at my voice teacher's home with my girlfriend at the time, and some of my teacher's friends, I sent a few other friends (my accompanist and voice teacher from a while back) my thoughts as the newspaper discussed a singalong of Händel's Messiah.

One future goal I would love to have is to participate in Händel's Messiah, even though it would probably have to be part of an independent choral project, as my church doesn't do it, and doesn't care, because the modern worship people want more rock and (karaoke) instead of piano, organ, and orchestral music, all of which I have enjoyed through the eight-month church search. (2002) (Message, not beat, matters first, as I learned from one of my friends.)

That teacher responded:

Many churches do Messiah "sing alongs" . . . They'll have a choir that knows it at the front, and soloists, and organ or orchestra, and everyone else is encouraged to bring their own score and sing along to all of the chorus numbers. I wholeheartedly suggest you check it out, because it would be a great way to get your feet wet! My first Messiah experience was really amazing, and I can't wait to someday sing the solos.

An accompanist who worked with me in my first two gigs had a few comments to respond:

I am still impressed with (the church's classical sacred) music and how singing there not only strenghtens me as a Christian, but as a musician as well. There are many churches who sing the Messiah at Christmas and I suggest finding those and joining in. In addition, just listening to the Messiah is wonderful, as well. Last night, as I helped my parents decorate the Christmas tree, I turned on the radio and listened to Bob Jones University's choirs sing the Messiah. Just look for the opportunities and they will be there.

A year later, I was emotionally drained from my father's death just over two weeks previously (there's another great story about it from the turkey trot last week; a dancer friend talked about her mother's death two weeks afterwards; three weeks afterwards and she became my dance teacher, still hoping to get that girl), and still through the voice lessons and sympathy, I decided to give a singalong a shot. It was chilly but I came in so late, I forgot to wear my jacket into the church!

A year passed, and I decided to add more training runs on weekends, especially some early Sunday mornings. One such Sunday involved me at a church where a dear college friend (who is now pregnant with the couple's third child) had married. They needed tenors, and asked if I had time. I agreed to it, and was part of the tenor section for their performance of selections of the masterpiece. I greatly enjoyed my new teammates for this one-off, and before we were ready, I learned it would be part of a special group of days I called the Six Weeks of Händel, as I would attend two, sing in two:

November 10 - Opera, Acis and Galatea
November 18 - South Carolina Philharmonic (My voice teacher is the soprano soloist)
December 10 - The performance in question which I was a guest tenor.
December 18 - Singalong (as just a member of the peanut gallery)

I was giddy following the Philharmonic performance that I did not think I could get off the emotional high of such a rousing performance of the entire masterpiece.

Last year, with energy prices skyrocketing, I cut back on travel. I attended just the singalong I had attended the previous two years (and plan again to do later this month). But this time, it ended with one of the most exciting statements I could think of writing, considering who sang in it.

Ah, the sing-along!

Imagine playing a round at Augusta National with Tiger Woods. Imagine driving around Darlington Raceway in a Chevrolet Impala with Jimmie Johnson as your spotter. Imagine playing basketball with Shaquille O'Neal as your coach. Imagine shadowing George W. Bush as the Leader of the Free World continues to march through the Bull Market, attacking Usama bin Laden and his heathens, in the continuing battle of Good and Evil.

Those thoughts were in my head as I headed to Monday's Washington Street United Methodist Church Messiah Sing-Along. When the soprano soloist is your very own voice teacher, the alto is her dear friend, and there are some choral society members
that also have your voice teacher as their teacher, something was clearly there.

One of the world's most important pieces of music, and also a masterpiece about the life of Christ Himself, Georg Fredreich Händel's Messiah debuted 265 years ago on Easter to a crowd enthralled about the oratorio intended to celebrate the Saviour from His Birth, His Life, His Passion, and The Resurrection.

Millions have sung this piece, and many more have attended performances since the 1742 debut. A popular community event is the sing-along of selections of this masterwork during the Christmas season, and that is what I had attended one of these locally is the sing-along that features the first part and the final selections from both the second and third part for which I have now attended for three years, especially since I usually find friends attending each year, whether it has been my pianist or other friends. I attempted to invite friends from my home church this year.

I cannot fathom in a few short sentences the feeling of being led by the choir leader of my voice teacher's church, the awe of a chamber orchestra, or having the sopranos and altos in the front pews since the tenors and basses already fit the choir loft. When you are at home and the choir loft has many empty seats since the past two music leaders have virtually emptied the choir with mindless theology-free and sappy secularised music (not sacred) in the choir with karaoke replacing the organ, something will only soothe the senses like your voice teacher and friends.

To hear the first part of Messiah sung with the beauty of your voice teacher's voice through "Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion" is enough to lull you into sweet music. I knew when I heard the overture I was excited to finally sing along with my very own teacher after many years. Her voice easily resonated into my heart, but I enjoyed the power of the tenor and the bass each. All four vocalists easily made clarity through, but many in the audience had problems with some selections ("And He Shall Purify," "Amen") because the audience was not seated as requested (sopranos on one side, altos on another, tenors on a third, bass on a fourth); they seated in various places that it confused tenors when they had to go, since many times tenors were sining around altos (and not other tenors).

Last year when a friend invited me to sing at their church as a guest choral member, I sat with the tenors and easily understood every note because I was around them always; but it seemed to be different when choirs are mixed so the vocal parts are bouncing around and you cannot hear your part. Sometimes I was relegated to seeing when the leader would point for tenors to go.

But this experience, my third sing-along, keeps being better. Having your own friends lead was just the icing on the cake.

I enjoy watching the Fox News Channel, and John Gibson has frequently discussed the War on Christmas, and Bill O'Reilly warns about the secularisation of America. I ask has the secularisation of the Christmas season gone one step too many with the absurd winter songs that appear on the radio, and the continuous winter themes that have infiltrated our culture. When a college friend is in Australia, and it's clearly summer there, there is an obvious reason after meeting her to reject things that are "winter holiday". I cannot stand the bombardment of these "fake" Christmas "songs" on the air because they run the importance of Christmas for what it truly means -- the Birth of the Saviour.

Have we secularised Christmas to the point that at schools and churches, we permit Elmo and Patsy sing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", we let any type of bogus vocalist perform "Frosty the Snowman," or other winter music tunes of snow replace songs such as "Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion," or "O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion"?

Given a choice, I'll have my voice teacher and friends singing those masterpieces of Händel. It's an interesting reflection, but I am excited about taking another shot.

Any of you considering singing sacred masterpieces for Christmas instead of the OCP/GIA/EMI/UMG/WMG junk on the market today?

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Sounds of Christmas

By Mitchell

OK, we know that Christmas doesn't really start until December 25, and then it runs for twelve days. But we also know that for many, Christmas begins as soon as Thanksgiving ends. As I mentioned last week, I like to keep Thanksgiving as its own holiday - no need to rush through it. But, seeing as how it is December 1, as far as I'm concerned it's fair game from here on in.

To help put you in the mood, from now until the 25th we'll be offering occasional video clips of our favorite Christmas moments from television, movies and music. Some of them may be familiar to you, but we're willing to bet that you'll be seeing a lot of them for the first time.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the Tennessee Ernie Ford special "The Story of Christmas." First shown in 1963, it seemed destined to be a Christmas classic, but after a couple of showings it just faded away. Thought to be lost forever, it was rediscovered and brought back on video a few years ago. The highlight of this special was an 18 1/2 minute animated sequence depicting the story of the Nativity, and Pfeffer Photos kindly brought to our attention this clip, depicting a portion of that segment. The artist is Eyvind Earle, the music is by the Roger Wagner Chorale, and the song is What Child Is This? Enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The United States was the first nation to officially set aside a day to give thanks. It has remained blessedly untarnished, if somewhat overlooked, at least in comparison to other holidays. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if we're in such a hurry to get to Christmas, we pass by Thanksgiving altogether. It becomes an excuse for parades, football and food, the first day of a four-day weekend for many, and a moment of sanity before the start of Black Friday.

Well, it's true that Thanksgiving is all these things. It is, however, also a time for us to take a moment and reflect on the many things for which we can be thankful. No matter our state in life, the challenges we face, or the difficulties we encounter, it is a rare person who cannot find someone in even more dire straits. We have all been given blessings, great and small, and it is only the artificial urgency with which we have infused our lives that causes us to overlook these blessings.

So sometime today, perhaps between the turkey and the pie, or at halftime of the Lions game (if you've been able to make it that far), stop for a minute and look around you at all you have, and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the One who made it all possible. (And we don't mean the president-elect, either!)

On behalf of Mitchell and Judie, of Bobby and Steve and Kristen and Drew, we wish you - our friends, our loyal Hadleybloggers, and those of you who happen to stop by - the happiest and most blessed of Thanksgiving Days. Don't eat too much today, don't shop too much tomorrow - and enjoy every moment of it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who's Trotting?

By Bobby Chang

With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, I'm asking how many of you are going to be Turkey Trotting tomorrow?

Will it be 1,609, 3,000, 5,000, 8,000, 10,000, 21,097.5, 42,195 meters, or in between those distances? I know I'm doing a 8,000 meter Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands Turkey Day Run.

For many, turkey trots are big benefits for charities. It reminds me of the chorus of a Chris Rice song I remember from college (and was sung by Kathy Troccoli at the 1998 South Carolina March for Life):

Carry your candle
Run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless
Deceived and poor
Hold out your candle
For all to see it
Take your candle, go light your world

-- From "Go Light Your World," Copyright 1993 Universal Music Publishing.

Think about it when you're doing a turkey trot tomorrow, as we help those less fortunate as we do a trot. There's nothing better on Thanksgiving than to be running on streets for a good cause for turkey trots. This is the fourth local trot, and my seventh overall trot. (My first turkey trot was the 2002 Knights of Columbus 5k in Charleston; Bishop Baker of the Charleston Diocese, whom I've met a few times at the March for Life, sprinkled the course as the gun fired off. I did, however, fold over the bib because of an alcohol ad, which is something that I do not tolerate.)

If you're doing a Turkey Trot, just tell us. Good healthy running to everyone on Thanksgiving.

Back In the Day

By Mitchell

We haven't dipped into the Hadley TV Guide archives for awhile, and I can't think of a better time to do it than Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving 1962 fell on November 22, which would take on an entirely new and darker significance a scant 12 months later. Holiday programming actually started earlier in the week, on Saturday, when Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers (8:00 Central, ABC) celebrated with an evening of Thanksgiving music, including "Thank the Lord for This Thanksgiving Day," "Bless This House," and "By the Waters of Minnetonka." (Bet you didn't know there were so many Thanksgiving songs, did you?)

Perry Como's Thanksgiving show aired on Wednesday (8:00, NBC), which TV Guide referred to as "Thanksgiving Eve." Thomas Mitchell was the special musical guest, and the theme for the program - a fitting one - was "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays."

Ah, Thanksgiving Day itself. And what would it be without parades and football? Well, there was plenty of it on Thanksgiving 1962, starting at 9 am. NBC, as is the case to this day, carried the Macy's parade. Only two hours back then as opposed to three hours today - I wonder if they cut out the fluff and the awful lip-synched production numbers? Guess not; the broadcast started off with a half-hour, three-ring circus in front of the store. Donald Duck was the new balloon that year, and Bud Palmer and Chris Schenkel, a couple of well-known sportscasters, were the announcers. I find that interesting, considering that traditionally the hosts of the Today show anchored the parade coverage.

CBS's coverage also started at 9 and ran for two hours. Captain Kangaroo was in New York, hosting the overall coverage of three traditional parades: New York, Philadelphia and Detroit. But here's the interesting thing: all three parades were treated as news events, and anchored by newsmen. Douglas Edwards covered New York, Robert Trout and Gene Crane in Philadelphia, and Dallas Townsend and Bob Murphy were in Detroit. These were all well-known newsmen of the time, although you might not remember them today. Again, I wonder if they were forced to read the excruciatingly bad copy that that parade announcers do today? I doubt it.

When I was a kid, I loved watching these parades, particularly CBS - after all, more parades. They were all sponsored by department stores: in addition to Macy's, Gimbel's sponsored the Philadelphia parade, and Hudson's underwrote Detroit. It was good business for the stores, and good publicity. (For many years CBS would also cover the Santa Claus parade in Canada, where Eaton's department store was the sponsor.)

Of course, most of these stores are gone now, as the shopping centers of large cities moved out of downtown and into the suburbs. The parades are still around, with new sponsors (IKEA is the title sponsor in Philly), and the Detroit parade is syndicated nationally, while others are shown locally. CBS and NBC both dedicate their entire parade broadcasts to New York, and we've shifted our attention to Chicago, where WGN provides national coverage of the McDonald's Thanksgiving Day parade, which was moved to Thanksgiving from an early December date a few years ago.

But I digress. There's more to Thanksgiving television than parades, right? There's football! CBS went directly from their parade coverage to the big NFL game of the day, the traditional Turkey Day matchup between Detroit and Green Bay. The 1962 game was one of the most famous games ever played on Thanksgiving; one of the greatest Packer teams ever came into this game undefeated, only to be crushed by the Lions 26-14, with Packers QB Bart Starr sacked a staggering 11 times.

As soon as the Detroit-Green Bay tilt was over, the network switched to Austin, Texas for coverage of the traditional Texas-Texas A&M matchup. These two teams played for many years on Thanksgiving Day, and have sporatically continued the tradition in recent years (including this year) on ESPN. If you were in the mood for a little AFL football, you could catch the New York Titans (now the Jets) playing the Broncos in Denver at 2 pm on ABC.

There was some other holiday fare, however. Pat Boone had a variety special at 4:30 on NBC, with guest stars Patti Page, Elaine Dunn, and Peter, Paul & Mary (!). Also on NBC, at 6:30, was The Bell Telephone Hour Thanksgiving show, starring John Raitt (father of Bonnie), Martha Wright and Mahalia Jackson, and featuring an appearance by poet and Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg. Now, for our younger readers those names might not mean much, but trust me - this was some big-name talent appearing on this show.

And that was it for Thanksgiving, 1962.

November 22 is the earliest Thanksgiving can fall in the year. In 1963 Thanksgiving was on November 28, the latest it can fall. It was six days after JFK was assassinated, three days after he was buried, one day after LBJ addressed a joint session of Congress. Parades were still held and people came, although nobody seemed that excited about it. It's for the children, the organizers said, in explanation for why the parades went on. Everyone agreed that the diversion was probably a good thing. The special programming was over; football games were played, entertainment specials were broadcast, life went on.

November 22, 1962. Nobody could possibly have anticipated what things would be like 365 days later. But that was all in the future, and people lived with what they had, which was Thanksgiving Day: parades, food and football.

Come to think of it, that's not a bad thing to have. We don't know what the future holds, which is why we're thankful for what the present gives us.

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