According to our new "Daily Almanac" feature on the sidebar, today (April 29) is the birthday of the great Duke Ellington. What better way to celebrate than with this performace of one of his signature pieces, "Take the A Train." Enjoy!
We thought it might be nice to catch up with some of our stories from earlier in the year and see just how well they've held up over time:
Most of you probably know this already, but as we approach Mother’s Day it bears repeating.
Mother’s Day has, over the years, become a sort of unofficial celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness. With it, we’ve seen a proliferation of pink ribbons blossom across the landscape, the most prominent of which belong to the organization known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, formerly the Susan G. Komen Foundation. And it's almost impossible to go anywhere at this time of the year without being assulted by the Komen campaign.
The Race for the Cure is probably the best known of the Komen activities, and if you haven't already been asked, it's likely that someone running in one of the Mother's Day races will be hitting you up for a contribution at some point in the next couple of weeks. But that's not all: retailers offer a percentage of their sales to Komen, Major League Baseball donates funds to Komen based on the number of home runs hit on Mother's Day, pink accessories appear in jewelry and clothing stores, each one carefully designed to allow the wearer to make a political statement about fighting breast cancer. The whole thing has become a cottage industry.
What none of them want to talk about, of course, is the dirty little secret - the relationship between Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood, the number-one provider of abortions in the United States.
According to Komen, their grants to Planned Parenthood are specifically for breast cancer testing. However, as anyone with experience in the charity world knows, organizations such as Planned Parenthood operate on a budget, which means that any money specified for one area (such as breast cancer testing) frees up money which can be used in other areas – and we all know what those areas are. Various sources put Komen’s contribution in grants to Planned Parenthood in 2003 alone at more than $475,000. That means $475,000 was freed up for some of Planned Parenthood’s “other” activities.
(And even if one were to accept Komen's explanation, it's a little harder to understand some of the other "relationships" into which local Komen chapters enter, such as the Denver afiliate's past funding for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community (GLBT) Center of Colorado.)
The Bioethics Defense Fund page offers an excellent synopsis of Komen’s relationship with the pro-abortion movement over the years. Among the highlights:
Politics may be history, but a lot of it is also mythology, and the problem comes when you believe the myth without understanding the history.
Undoubtedly you've noticed the comparisons during this campaign between Obama and Robert F. Kennedy, the idea that Obama is the next Bobby. That puts liberals of a certain age (you know, the ones with grey hair and ponytails who still worship the 60s) into a contemplative moode, and pretty soon they're musing themselves about how things would have been different if Bobby hadn't been assassinated - the war in Vietnam (Bobby would have brought the troops home), race relations (Bobby was a uniter), Watergate (Bobby would have kept that Nixon from being elected). The assassination of RFK was kind of the political equivalent of the day the music died - at least, whatever music remained after the death of JFK. (Which, as we detailed here, was a far more significant cultural event.)
Yes, Robert F. Kennedy does make for quite a mythic figure. Trouble is, as is so often the case with myth, the facts don't quite bear it out. It's popular to think that Sirhan Sirhan's bullets prevented Kennedy's election - but, in fact, it was doubtful that RFK would have even won the Democratic nomination.
For evidence, check out this collection of clips from network coverage of the California primary. As you can see, the consensus in this contemporaneous coverage - all coming prior to Sirhan's fatal shots - was that Hubert Humphrey (the eventual winner) was still the front-runner, even with Kennedy's triumph in California, and that it was highly unlikely that Kennedy would be able to deny Humphrey the nomination.
Of course, we really don't know what would have happened in 1968, and it's unlikely we'll ever be able to figure it out. The political world of 1968 bears no resemblance to that of today - what with favorite sons, surrogate candidates, party bosses and the prospect of multiple ballots at the convention - and it's doubtful that we can even comprehend how things operated back then.
Which is why it's so important to go back to the original source. Never mind what the historians say, or the movie makers, or the conspiracy buffs, or anyone else. Go back and find out what they were saying at the time. Bobby's assassination was a tragic event, and there's no doubt it impacted history - but not quite the way people think.
Many of Obama's more avid supporters like to see him as a reincarnation of Bobby Kennedy. But Bobby Kennedy, had he lived, probably wouldn't have won the nomination, let alone the election. Is that really what Obama's people want to emulate?
April 22 is the annual celebration of “Earth Day,” which has been celebrated since 1970, as a way the organisers believe would help be aware of “saving planet earth”. But the sinister goals of the organisers of Earth Day are intentionally hidden around the centennial of the birth of Soviet dictator Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known to the world as Lenin, and the philosophies of the Soviet Union that failed when Ronald Reagan successfully choked the CCCP into submission in 1991.
Sadly, children in schools today are taught to glorify the ideas of Lenin and not that of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, or Madison today.
The major teachings of Lenin that embodies the spirit of Earth Day mainly consist of government control of everything – and that includes property. By denying people the right to private property, the government can control what they can and cannot do. Such philosophy is adhered by environmentalists and the policies established against drilling for coal (the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was established by the Clinton administration as a payoff to Chinese interests, banning resourceful Utah coal from being drilled), oil (witness their winning battle against drilling in ANWR), cutting forests to prevent forest fires caused by ignition of waste, and other crucial activities, as these policies established by the government are part of the idea that the government, not the people, control the land.
Environmental policies have created things such as the ban on DDT that has harmed developing countries, a ban on lightbulbs that do not contain mercury, as they “waste” energy, and now even banning mid-size to large cars, including banning the sport-utility vehicle, which are being replaced by small cars that “save energy” but have no safety.
People should remember today that “Earth Day” is the liberals' attempt to celebrate the idea of total government control, and that is something embraced through Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth lie, and also the “greenie weenie” policies of the 2007 Energy Act, and the land grabs frequently embraced by liberals to restrict the rights of people with their private property, in an attempt to have government control everything, similar to to the philosophy of Lenin, of whose birthday they celebrate today.
For more on the scam that liberals have made out of environmentalism, check out the "Planet Gore" blog at NRO.
(MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- April 16) Local theater enthusiast Sherman Fedwick came away from the latest Broadway-touring production in Minneapolis a bit confused and more than a little disappointed.
"I hear Four Seasons and I think classical, cellos, violins, Vivaldi, you know, the whole nine yards," Fedwick was overheard remarking to a companion after emerging from the Orpheum Theater, where the popular musical was playing. "I pay big money and what do I hear? Four teenagers in t-shirts and jeans singing on a street corner about crying girls and walking like a man. And using four letter words, no less. What's up with that?"
Walters expressed hope that his next theater ticket for the upcoming production of “Mama Mia" will meet his expectations. "You can always bet on Italian opera to deliver the goods,” he said.
Our Recovering Dissident Catholic had an interesting reflection on "worship dance," an issue I've had at our church for years. This issue is not Catholic vs Protestant, but it seems it's Catholics vs Emergents. In some churches, the choirs have been dumped for dancers. Catherine's thoughts were mine too.
"To treat elocution as a substitute for action, to rely on highsounding words unbacked by deeds is proof of a mind that dwells only in the realm of shadow and of shame."
Said by Theodore Roosevelt about Woodrow Wilson in 1915. But for a the use of a couple of anachronistic words, it could have been spoken today, don't you think? Perhaps even about, say, Senator Obama?
It never ceases to amaze how the more things change, the more they stay the same. If you're a student of history it's somewhat comforting to know that things are seldom as bad as they seem, because there's very little that we haven't already experienced before. (Of course, it's also true that some of those experiences didn't turn out very well.) It is depressing, however, to realize that for all that history, we don't ever seem to learn much from it.
From time to time in Poetry Wednesday we've looked at the poems of T.S. Eliot. Here is something a little different: listening to the voice of Eliot himself, reading "The Burial of the Dead" from "The Waste Land":
It is always startling when we realize we can hear the actual voices of some of the great poets reciting their own work, isn't it?
You remember that was the mantra of Howard Cosell - telling it like it is. (You do remember Howard Cosell, don't you? Or am I showing my age?)
At any rate, if you really want someone telling it like it is, check out Bernard Goldberg's comments as quoted by Richard Deitsch yesterday at SI.com. That's right - it's the same Bernard Goldberg that we know and love for books such as Bias, 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America, and Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right. Goldberg is known for turning the harsh light on the phonies in media, politics and culture, and now he'd like to turn it on the scandal known as "college athletics."
Not having HBO, I had no idea that Goldberg was a correspondent for their Real Sports series, hosted by Bryant Gumbel. (Talk about phonies - but that's another story for another day.) At any rate, Goldberg talks to Deitsch about ideas he has for future stories:
Goldberg says one of the future stories he'd like to tackle is the corruption of the university. "Not the corruption of college sports but the corruption of the university itself, accepting people into the college who really should not be accepted into the college," says Goldberg, who worked as a producer and reporter at CBS for 28 years. "When some of my colleagues bemoan the fact that so and so only played one year in college and then wet to the pros, I say he should not have gone to college at all.
"I interviewed Father (Theodore) Hesburgh of Notre Dame once and he had a very good line. I said, "What about the argument that these kids are better off at Notre Dame then they would be on a street corner in Newark or someplace? He said, "Let me tell you something: This is not a gymnasium. This is a university." And he's right. As a journalist I find it interesting how university presidents will sell their soul for a winning football team, how they will look the other way. And if we're lucky, they are just looking away. Otherwise, they know what is going on and they simply don't care."
It will come as no surprise to longtime readers of this site that Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts is a personal favorite. (For those of you unfamiliar with Deep Thoughts, a sample: "Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis." Personal favorite: "If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you'll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.")
Many have wondered if there is, in fact, a real Jack Handey, so it was fun to see this piece at CNN that not only confirms he is real, it includes an interview with him. His new book, "What I'd Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats," features musings such as "a pseudo history of a friendship between Al Capone and Albert Einstein." (Capone: 'With your brains and my muscle, we'll be unstoppable') Really, you can't pass something like that up.
Having admitted this appreciation of Jack Handey, you're bound to think this explains a lot about the somewhat bizarre nature of Our Word. And if you haven't figured that out, I don't know what more we can offer to convince you of it.
It’s been a quiet week here at the blog, what with vacations, illness, work, busy schedules. So how about we end it with some music?
In my obit of Charlton Heston, I linked to Terry Teachout’s story about the memorial service for William F. Buckley Jr. Discussing the music that Buckley had chosen for the service (tip: always choose your funeral music yourself. Catholics who’ve been to bad funeral masses will understand what I mean), Terry mentioned the music used during communion, the Adagio in G Minor by Albinoni (which we now know was written by Remo Giazotto). He doesn’t think much of it – in fact, he called it “a preposterously operatic piece of spurious yard goods.”
I, on the other hand, rise to defend it. Someone once facetiously called it “the happiest piece of music ever written,” but don’t let that turn you off from it. True, it is what you might call a moody piece, but if you can’t appreciate that at a funeral, where can you? Anyway, I like it, and I don't apologize for it. So in searching for a clip to present to you in order to build my case, I came across these two. And in listening to them, it brought to mind a much more extensive conversation, one that becomes the true thrust of this piece.
It dates back to a comment I made at our sister blog Stella Boralis back in November of 2006. At the time we were discussing the orchestral masses that are a standard at St. Agnes church in St. Paul, and I offered the following opinion regarding the way in which that music was conducted by their director, Dr. Robert Petersen:
My concern is that Dr. Peterson mistakes "deliberate" for "solumn," with the result that the music's effect is becoming less and less representative of what the composer had in mind.
Take, for example, the Mozart and Haydn masses which are a principal part of the repetorie. There are a lot of people who don't think they like Mozart or Haydn - they think them too sentimental, too cloying. At least they think this until they hear the music performed as it was written - with a faster, almost joyful tempo. This is typical Hayden, typical Mozart, and it is also what is often missing from St. Agnes since Dr. Peterson assumed direction of the Chorale. You don't have to be a musicologist, or even a classical music buff, to detect the shortcomings in this approach to liturgical music. The slower tempo not only distorts the sound of the music, making it much more difficult for both singers and musicians to keep a steady line while performing, it also, I think, dilutes the liturgical impact of the music.
I made some other comments as well, but I think you can take from this that I was not particularly impressed with the way the music was being performed. Now, this can be a difficult concept to explain, which is what makes the two versions of the Albinoni (or Giazitto, if you prefer) so ideal for demonstration.
Our first version features Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. It runs approximately ten minutes. Take a listen.
Now here's the second version, by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (performing, as always, without conductor). It lasts just a shade over seven minutes:
Do the differences leap out at you? For starters, Karajan's version lasts about three minutes more than that of the Orpheus, a substantial diffrerence in relatively brief piece. And Karajan is working with the Berlin Philharmonic rather than a much smaller chamber group, so his sound is going to be bigger and more lush. But what does this mean?
Karajan was unquestionably one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, but he had the reputation for frequently producing a sound that was "calculatedly polished." In the words of critic Harvey Sachs, "Karajan seemed to have opted instead for an all-purpose, highly refined, lacquered, calculatedly voluptuous sound." A review by the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs of Karajan conducting a Haydn piece underscores the point. “It goes without saying that the quality of the orchestral playing is superb. However, these are heavy-handed accounts, closer to Imperial Berlin than to Paris ... the Minuets are very slow indeed ... These performances are too charmless and wanting in grace to be whole-heartedly recommended."
Listen again to each piece, particularly one section. It starts around 7:50 on the Karajan version. Did you notice this originally when listening to the two performances. Notice how deliberate this. Lush, rich, yes - but very, very slow.
This same section comes around six minutes into the Orpheus rendition. See how tightly orchestrated it is in this performance? The tightness creates an atmospheric tension that, I think, adds to its effectiveness. It stabs you, stings the heart, rather than the soothing balm that comes from Karajan.
So ask yourself what Karajan's pacing added to the performance. Did it make it more solumn, more imposing, more stately? Or did it simply make it slower and less effective in its emotional impact? I suppose in part it depends on why you come to this music: do you want the music to be sentimental and emotional, or are you looking to be challenged, even attacked, by the composer?
There probably isn't any truly correct answer to this question unless you're able to look at the original intent of the composer. The Orpheus version, based on what I've heard over the years, seems to be the most typical way this is performed; Karajan's deliberate rendition is more of an anamoly. Does this mean that the faster tempo is closer to the mind of the composer, whoever it was? Truth be told, I actually like the heaviness of Karajan's version the more I listen to it. But I still don't think it's as effective - it is more cloying, more manipulative, less honest.
And so I stick by my original comments regarding the importance of tempo. Just as bigger is not necessarily better, slower is not necessarily more stately, nor more solumn. The conductor Benjamin Zander once said that Beethoven wrote music that was meant to attack the audience, but that most contemporary conductors no longer presented him that way. In a sense, the lion had been turned into a pussycat. Beethoven, with that great mane of hair, would not have appreciated that. I don't think most composers would. And it's something that the conductor needs to keep in mind, whether you're in a concert hall in Berlin or the choir loft of a church.
It's also something to keep in mind, and to listen for, when you're sitting in the audience (or the congregation, if you will). Let classical music come to you, and attack you. By being an active listener, by interacting with the music, you also let it enter you. And if you let it, it will change your life.
"It's people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They're making our food out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for food. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them! . . . You tell everybody. Listen to me, Hatcher. You've gotta tell them! Soylent Green is people! We've gotta stop them somehow!"
Stanley Greenberg, script for Soylent Green, delivered by Charlton Heston
(Apropos for Cathy's comments below)
Our loyal reader Cathy of Alex mentioned the other day that it sometimes seems this site should be renamed " Requiescat in Pace" based on all the obits we do. I wondered about that earlier myself, and in a very imperfect way speculated on why this might be.
Of course, leave it to a professional writer to boil it down to a few words that explain it all. In his piece on the memorial service for William F. Buckley Jr., Terry Teachout summarized it thus: "Somehow you never imagine outliving the people who show you through the doors that lead to the rest of your life." And I thought to myself: "That's it."
In their own way, the obituaries we write tell our stories as much as they do those of the deceased. For when they die we feel the need to reflect on the particular role they played in our lives. Under the influence of the world they open to us they help shape us, form our preferences, our tastes, our mannerisms. They become the people we admire, or decry, or want to emulate. We want to get the girl like Cary Grant did, we want to save the day just like John Wayne; we want to be Mickey Mantle hitting the game-winning homer, or we want to be the pitcher that strikes him out. We want to be like them, we want to convert them, we want to best them. And when they die, something more than a little piece of yourself dies with them; it's a piece of the world they helped to create.
Charlton Heston created a larger-than-life world, and it's no wonder: he parted the Red Sea, won a chariot race for the ages, discovered the secret of the Planet of the Apes, baptized Christ, rescued a circus from bankruptcy, died trying to save Ava Gardner from an earthquake that devastated Los Angeles, and warned everyone that Soylent Green was people. And that was just for starters. Charlton Heston came from an era in which epics required more than acting in front of a blue screen, when battle scenes were created not on computers but instead on massive, detailed sets with featured thousands of flesh-and-blood extras.
There were those who scoffed when he won an Oscar for Ben-Hur, and he probably would have been the first to agree that there were more gifted actors out there. (Jimmy Stewart, for instance, was nominated for Anatomy of a Murder that same year.) That underestimates the effect Heston had on a movie. Look at Ben-Hur for example - there's an epic sea battle in the first half that would have been the centerpiece of most movies; in this story, remembered as it was for the chariot race, it was just another scene. Movies like this require more than just acting - they need someone who can hold the story together, who can keep the pieces of such an epic from spiraling out of control. It was Heston's presence, his voice, the power that radiated from his person, that helped to hold these movies together.
Not every movie he made was an epic, and that was part of his appeal. Nobody would think of Planet of the Apes or Soylent Green as great art, but they were great fun. Heston could chew the scenery with the best of them, and these movies contained some of his greatest lines. In making Earthquake and Airport 75 and the TV series The Colbys (the Dynasty spinoff) Heston demonstrated that not everything had to have a message, or be weighed down with gravitas. Actors were allowed to make popular movies back then (or at least movies that paid well), not just prestige "films." They were even allowed to make fun of their own images, as Heston did often. It's a lesson more actors ought to follow today. The industry might find itself in better financial shape if they did.
There was more to Charlton Heston than acting, of course. He was a longtime fighter for civil rights who walked the walk with the marchers. He headed the Screen Actors Guild and the National Rifle Association (talk about two extremes), and did both with power and style. He watched the Democratic Party betray the beliefs he had grown up with, and joined the Republicans - as did another actor who felt abandoned by the Democrats, Ronald Reagan. There was never a battle from which he backed down, and he more than held his own with the best (and worst) of them.
In later years he checked into rehab out of concern that he might be developing an alcohol problem, but in all likelihood it was instead the onset of Alzheimer's, the disease that also claimed his friend and political ally Ronald Reagan. It was a curious, but somehow appropriate coincidence that he died one day after the public memorial service for Bill Buckley, for whose National Review he had done so many commercials throughout the years.
It's very easy, when someone dies, to say that "they don't make 'em like that anymore." We probably say that too often, about too many people whose accomplishments are anything but unique. But Charlton Heston was a man who took on those epic roles and pulled them off, and was as large on screen as he was humble off it. His was a life well-lived, both in movies and in real life.
They don't make 'em like that anymore.
Once every few months, I venture to a video store in hopes of updating my ever-growing movie collection. I browse the new releases, usually passing them over to look at old-new releases that have been marked down to move out inventory. I’ll look for a comedy, adventure, no horror. The genre that I save for last and look forward to most are the children’s movies. I see the new films for preschoolers and movies for the teeny-boppers. What I look for most are films from my childhood; movies that I remember watching on tapes recorded from TV. Last week I happened upon one of those great childhood epics, Muppet Treasure Island. I wasted not time adding it to the pile.
Much to my delight, my roommate also had a great fondness for the Disney take on a classic adventure story. Deciding it was worth sacrificing a night with Wolf Blitzer, we popped in the DVD. In no time, the images came flooding back. Songs, dialogue and jokes seemed as familiar as if we had just watched it earlier that day. Katie and I began to sing along to the opening number not only remembering lyrics, but vocal inflections and facial expressions. Lines that I could not remember, or remembered incorrectly, Katie effortlessly filled in. We began to laugh at scenes that had not yet played out. With tears in our eyes from laughing we watched the movie on the edge of our seats, anticipating the next old-new moment for us.
The movie ended and we talked about our experience down memory lane. The movie was by no means as scary as I remembered. The plot was much less complicated. The struggle between good and evil seemed a little less epic. And, it was definitely not as long as I remembered. Despite this, Katie and I could not have been happier. For the next few days, we quoted songs and lines from the movie laughing harder each time we recited them, the best being a response to the ship’s roll call by one of the Muppets, Clueless Morgan: Huh?
Over the next few days I talked with other friends about my rediscovery and found similar stories from them. Movies taped off television recently released on DVD. One remembered so vividly her favorite film that she could remember the exact spots where commercials had interrupted the story. He was caught off guard when the movie continued uninterrupted with ads from Cabbage Patch Kids or My Buddy. Another friend was delighted when she realized her bootlegged copy omitted several key scenes that as a child were not missed, but as an adult, finally cleared up a confusing story. We found surprising similarities in the movies that we remembered having previously thought them to be our own secret treasures.
What is the point of my story down memory lane? My motivation is to simply share an experience that will spark thoughts of your own childhood memories. Weather it be a book or movie, a record or song I welcome the feelings of excitement and wonder, as I feel, because these are an invaluable tool to bring us back to a simpler time, when all it took to make us laugh was a funny looking puppet with a pirate hat and a funny accent. In conclusion, if you have not seen this movie, come find me, and I will lend you my copy.
As you're probably aware, in the world of motor sports we at Our Word (meaning mostly me, but we choose to use the editorial form of the noun anyway) tend to favor racing of the open-wheeled kind, especially Formula 1.
So it should come as no surprise that we were unable to pass up this story regarding F1 president Max Mosley - which, gospel truth, has not been made up. The headline alone is marvelous: "F1 boss Max Mosley has sick Nazi orgy with 5 hookers. Son of fascist Hitler lover in sex shame." (Do the British know how to write headlines, or what?)
The son of infamous British wartime fascist leader Oswald Mosley is filmed romping with five hookers at a depraved NAZI-STYLE orgy in a torture dungeon. Mosley— a friend to F1 big names like Bernie Ecclestone and Lewis Hamilton— barks ORDERS in GERMAN as he lashes girls wearing mock DEATH CAMP uniforms and enjoys being whipped until he BLEEDS.
At one point the wrinkled 67-year-old—who publicly likes to give the impression he has put his father's evil legacy behind him—yells "she needs more of ze punishment!" while brandishing a LEATHER STRAP over a brunette's naked bottom.
Then the lashes rain down as Mosley counts them out in German: "Eins! Zwei! Drei! Vier! Fünf! Sechs!.."
Oswald Mosely, founder of the British Fascists Union, was the model for Roderick Spode, a.k.a Lord Sidcup, the loutish leader of the fascist "Black Shorts" in [P.G. Wodehose's] Jeeves and Wooster series. [Since the Nazis were the Black Shirts and the Facists the Brown Shirts, the only thing left to this group were Black Shorts.] Wodehose described him thusly: "as if Nature had intended to make a gorilla, and had changed its mind at the last moment." No doubt if Wodehouse were still alive, he would be amused and unsurprised by his son's public humiliation — particularly since in the books Spode is revealed [spoiler warning] to be ashamed of his secretive double life as a famed designer of ladies lingerie.
This is no April Fool's joke: back in the mid 1960s, the United Nations was involved in a effort to produce a series of made-for-TV movies promoting their work. How effective was it? Well, ask yourself if you've ever heard of it - if you haven't, that should tell you just successful it was.
You can read all about this little-known piece of TV and political history in my latest article over at the terrific TVParty! (And I don't say that just because they've published a couple of my pieces - Billy Ingram really runs a wonderful site. After all, I'm there, right?)