Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Few Words on Things We Haven't Discovered

By Kristin

A few days ago on the History Channel, I watched the beginning of a program about the discovery of a previously unknown pyramid in Egypt. A point I found most exciting was how recently it had been discovered. Only in recent years have scientists been able to enter the site because it is located in one of Egypt’s military zones. All that remains of the structure is the stone base, creating uncertainty among archaeologists as to the state of the pyramid’s construction; It may have been started and abandoned before its completion, or it was finished and later torn down. This monument would also add a great deal of history to rulers of the 4th dynasty and priceless information about the other pyramids and their importance. Although I only lasted through the introduction of the introduction of the program, due to the pressing matter of a movie needing to be watched promptly to be able to return it by midnight, I thought of a few questions to consider. If such a large structure is only now coming to light now, what other marvelous places have yet to be discovered? Are there cities, castles, monuments, even documents, books, letters that have yet to be discovered? As anyone interested in history can attest to, finding such pieces of history is the high point of research; the discovery of something new that can add to our history and help us paint a picture of our identity.

The adventure of discovery can be chronicled through out the record of human history; the search for the Fountain of Youth, El Dorado, the Holy Grail, Atlantis. And there are countless Hollywood recreations of these discoveries and countless others; The Mummy, The Fountain; Indiana Jones, et al., 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Retelling stories about fantastic discoveries is exciting and often inspires others to pursue finding lost worlds. But what about the things we don’t know are lost? What about civilizations that are buried so deep, that they won’t be discovered until we move mountains? I wondered, as I popped in the DVD of John Adams (an interesting HBO mini-series that I hope to comment on later), what the next great discovery would be. Has everything been found? The answer to the latter question is obviously no as proved by the newest addition to the Pyramid Family. But how will it be discovered?

I ramble on about this only because the thrill of discovering something new has always been of great interest to me. I hope that others may be inspired to pursue discoveries, large or small.

Wish I'd Written That

By Mitchell

"One must never own up to a fart in public. That is the unwritten law, the single most stringent protocol of American etiquette. Farts come from no one and nowhere; they are anonymous emanations that belong to the group as a whole, and even when every person in the room can point to the culprit, the only sane course of action is denial."

Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies
(I couldn't resist coming back to share that one)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Prayer Request

By Bobby

My longtime voice teacher is going to Spain for two and a half weeks. Keep her in your prayers.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Charlie Jones, R.I.P.

By Mitchell

The name might not be familiar to everyone, but if you're old enough to have been a fan of the American Football League, then there was no mistaking the smooth baritone of Charlie Jones. And then there was the white hair - or was it silver? So hard to tell in black-and-white - and the dark-rimmed glasses. Yes, if you're from that era, you knew who Charlie Jones was.

He was another of the announcers from the old school, the alums of which believed that the game was important enough to speak for itself and the announcer's job was not to upstage the action on the field. He had a distinctive voice and a distinctive style, and he got it right, what was going on down on the field, and that was enough.

Whenever I think back to those days I'm reminded of the great sportswriter Mike Lupica and his line about how today's sportscasters act like they're standing in front of a brick wall during Open Mic Night at the Improv. For them, entertainment's the thing, and that game, or whatever it is, is just secondary. (Granted, when you've got ballparks with swimming pools in them, it's hard not to treat the game that way.) These entertainer-sportscasters call to mind a lot of adjectives, but "professional" isn't usually one of them.

Not so with Charlie Jones. Whether he was calling one of the classic AFL battles of the 60s, anchoring coverage of the World Track & Field Championships, announcing the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl, or working the Summer Olympics for NBC, he brought class and style to his profession. In 1997 he received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Charlie Jones wasn't usually mentioned in the same breath with the other "big game" announcers of the era like Curt Gowdy; he was often more likely to be on the second half of the football doubleheader or the alternate game on the baseball game of the week. But he had a style that was his own, and when you heard his voice you never doubted who was behind the mic.

Yeah, Charlie Jones was a class act, and it's somehow appropriate that when he died last Thursday, his passing was sandwiched between two other class acts, Jim McKay and Tim Russert. Overshadowed in the headlines perhaps, but far from forgotten.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Twins Game

By Kristin

Last weekend, a friend and I made the arduous trek to the Windy City to see our Minnesota Twins battle our division rivals, the Chicago White Sox. Actually, it was not so much of a battle, as it turns out, but more of an unmerciful slaughter. Anyway, we began our adventure to the game at a local pub, absorbing the local culture and sampling the local brew. Erik and I both wore our Twins’ jerseys proudly, not caring that they were a little outdated displaying Hunter and Santana respectively. I even came up with a few zingers to combat any insults that would be pitched our way; At least we don’t share a city with the Cubs, or, At least our mascot isn’t a smelly sock. Unfortunately, I would be unable to use any of these stellar statements.

As we left the bar, someone yelled out, “Hey, Twinkie!”. At that moment, two thoughts flew through my head. Either he thought I wanted a Twinkie, or that there was a Twinkie stuck somewhere on my back. I was so shocked with this insult, assuming that it was an insult, and was unable to retort with my rehearsed lines. As I hurried past the group of Sox fans, the small gathering laughed and jeered.

“That man just called me a Twinkie,” I yelled exasperated at my companions.

“Yes,” one of them replied, “that’s what they call Twins fans, Twinkie.”

The rest of the game proceeded with minimal incident apart from the expected hollering and bashing. The Twins played a dismal game but we wore our Twins Jerseys proudly, hoping no one would notice that they were outdated. I was surprised to find that the people who did point out the fact that Santana and Hunter were no longer playing and could choice word, were Twins fans themselves. I returned home determined to see if anyone else had ever experienced being called a Twinkie. A reliable Twins fan and good friend told me that way back when the Twins were in a bit of a slump, people referred to the Minnesota ball players as Twinkies.

But this is not Twinkie’s only way of insulting a group of people. It is used as a term to describe Asian Americans who have become so immersed in American culture that they no longer follow any traditions of their Asian heritage. Another way it is used is by Native Americans to describe Americans who are entirely European, but claim Native American ancestry. Who knew that the name of a popular treat could have so many meanings and describe so many different people?

As a relatively new Twins fan, I was not as insulted as others may be by being called a Twinkie, mostly just caught off guard. I will take it as being called sugar, or sweet and stand proudly to be called a Twin/kie Fan.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert, R.I.P.

By Mitchell

It seems fitting somehow that Tim Russert died on Friday the 13th, a day so long associated with bad news. Tim Russert was an old school politician - big, gregarious, friendly - and he practiced old school politics. A liberal he might have been, but a principled one; and he seldom let that show on the air. (He was, after all, one of the first to take Rush Limbaugh seriously at a time when most in the MSM thought of him more as a freak show.) Russert seemed to appreciate that politics was at heart a good story, one that deserved a good storyteller. And that he was.

I'm most struck in reading the obituaries of Russert at how consistent they are. From both sides of the aisle, from as many media outlets as there are, all of them remark on the same things; his humility, his humor, his decency. Rush called him "a regular guy," and you're apt to hear that kind of description everywhere. No conspiracy could possibly result in that uniform an opinion in so short a time.

I particularly appreciate the fact that while politics was his passion in life (along with his family, baseball and the Buffalo Bills), he never let it get in the way of what was truly important. The sheer joy of it all overrode everything else; it was simply too much fun to spoil it with personal invective. In an era where politics is so terribly nasty (are you listening, some of you bloggers?), Tim Russert was the kind of guy who could make you think it was still worth, if only they were all like him.

And, for someone who did not know him, perhaps that is the highest compliment one can pay, that Tim Russert did his best to redeem a profession that has become irredeemable. If he failed in that, it can hardly be held against him.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Finally, a Candidate We Can Support!

By Drew

As you can see in the detail in the lower left corner: "Vote for Bugs Bunny"

Hey, he's got my support!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Church Corruption and How Kids Support the Mockery of Church Services

By Bobby

In March, I ordered the church's music department, which is now run by the children's "creative ministry" (body worship to hip-hop, puppets, and the like) department with little, if any, support for the music department, called to the Oval Office.

How clear is it when the church's music is more suited for females when it is based on feel-good, touchy-feely, emotions-based music that kids can dance like they've seen on MTV? It's not like ballroom dance or anything that involves partner-based stunts. It's not two-time Indy 500 champion Hélio Castroneves and Julianne Hough, or Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas.

What does it take to fake being a band and fake singing on a stage? The only thing for music kids learn is to fake everything. At least three routines I observed featured large-headed kids (and a few others) faking drums, piano, guitar, and even singing. What is the lesson we are teaching our children when they are simply going with the movements and not learning anything, especially as the loud music simply bangs around. Currently in choir we teach adults to sing theology-free modern worship to a compact disc. One kid whom I interviewed in discussion about the church issues even told me the children no longer have a choral music programme -- let alone a music programme.

Just fake it and it looks good while sounding well is all that's needed. If we teach kids to take a piano that's only a big wooden dummy that cannot move, that's all you need for music, it seems. They do not need a classical music education, orchestra, or organs when all that is required is for someon to pop a disc, play music, and get kids to fake the moves.

The kids talk about the words of the songs they perform, but as I listened to the practise, it was loud. The booming noise made it impossible to even hear the words, and this is intentional since the beat, not the message, is all that matters. They are being trained that church music is boom-boom-boom, listen to the bang, and ignoring words. Listen to any of service of an Emergent church (or other types of liberal churches -- and yes, that includes liberal Catholic organisations thanks to GIA, OCP, and the works) and you'll notice the same.

During one practice session I observed, the kids were doing a puppets and fake band routine to "Call Him Up" by Ron Kenoly. I noted after reading the lyrics of the song its lyrics were clearly Joel Osteen-like "prosperity gospel" teachings. Initially I heard the screaming "Jesus" incessantly and thought it could have been like a mantra in a Buddhist or Hindu temple. (I have been able to observe such recently as part of an attempt to research these events to notice the Emergent movement and how it takes from these New Age people.) When I found no theology and then read its "health-and-wealth" type lyrics, I wrote a friend who has more influence than I have at church who is as equally concerned. I've pulled my tithes off the church and to other ministries because of this attitude. I also questioned the lack of theology in "Saviour Song" -- a song which the kids love to dance "body worship" on stage. The kids are being taught MTV club dance, not classical choral singing, is church music.

The puppet and dance show was praised by leadership with its numbers, but with no Gospel message, and its body worship and faking it attitude, it concerns me. Give me an old sacred song such as the songs my voice teacher's "gray hairs" (she has a group of singers older than she is -- she is 30). My friend's son is taking piano and he loves the classics. The friend is growing concerned like me about church attitudes.

Last month during a church service, the officials organised it so that it consisted of young teenage girls in tee-shirts and jeans dancing to numerous pop tunes from the radio. Not a single Bible was opened or read. No stories from the Holy Bible were even read. What is appropriate for a dance recital of beginning youth (not an evening concert) at a major theatre on a Saturday morning is clearly not suited for a church service on Sunday morning. Too many people were unhappy, but the youth praised it and publicly denounced me by attacking on a few more viewpoints. They believed they were better for the dancing instead of studying the Gospel Truths. To end this trashing, they boasted the Bible has been altered numerous times, boasting it was not infallible and not God's Word.

What does this say about the postmodern generation?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Jim McKay, R.I.P.

By Mitchell

Jim McKay was one of what I once called the "big game" announcers: whenever you heard his voice on television, you knew there was something big going on. Unlike most of the other announcers in that category - Curt Gowdy, Pat Summerall, Lindsay Nelson, for example - Jim McKay wasn't necessarily doing the biggest game in town - but there was something about him that made whatever he was doing important.

That's not to say that, in a lifetime spent "spanning the globe," McKay didn't cover the big events. The Olympics, the Masters, U.S., and British Opens, the Indy 500, the Grand Prix of Monaco and the 24 hours of LeMans, the Grey Cup, the World Cup, the Kentucky Derby, Wimbledon, figure skating, track and field - how's that for starters?

But Jim McKay had that rare ability to transcend the event he was covering, to make it important because the people participating in it were important. And for McKay, anyone taking part in an athletic event was important. In his charming autobiography The Real McKay, he tells the story of being in Islip, New York covering a demolition derby for Wide World of Sports. Interviewing the winner, McKay was inclined to treat the whole thing as a lark. But it was no lark to the winner, who had just won the demolition derby "world championship" and discussed his strategy as seriously as would any other athlete. McKay learned a valuable lesson that day: "I had committed an unforgivable bit of gaucherie, looking down on this man in a condescending manner during what he considered the greatest moment of his life." From then on, McKay said, he tried to approach all sports "through the eyes of its competitors."

We should also remember that Jim McKay didn't start out in sports, nor did he start out with the name McKay. His real name was Jim McManus, and he got his television start in Baltimore, as a serious news journalist. He worked with people like Douglas Edwards, interviewed scientists, and covered presidential inaugurations, or at least the parades. When he became host of a daily variety show in Baltimore, he was asked to change his last name so that the show could be called "The Real McKay." He did so, grudgingly, but always thought of himself as McManus and retained the name for the family that played such an important role in his life.

It should be no surprise, then, that McKay proved himself more than equal to the task at his most famous, and most tragic, appearance - covering the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He won a Peabody for that, to go along with the Emmys that would mark his stellar career. They were all well deserved.

There was also McKay the family man; he refered to he and his wife Margaret as "a team," and credited that "team" for much of his professional and personal success. He understood that hard work was essential to a successful marriage and family, and believed that a common faith and shared interests had much to do with it. He was proud of his son, Sean McManus, who became president of CBS sports and news, and equally proud of his daughter Mary, a counselor. Of the life he and his wife shared, he wrote, "There is little more we could ask for."

McKay always felt it was a priviledge to have the job he had, to see the places and cover the events to which he was taken on Wide World, but in fact the priviledge was ours as well, to be able to hear him take us there. He was one of the last of a (literally) dying breed, the sportscaster who put the game ahead of himself. Vin Scully, Pat Summerall, Dick Enberg - the numbers seem to dwindle every time we turn around.

"They're all gone," Jim McKay famously said as word was passed to him of the deaths of the Israeli athletes at the Olympics. With his passing today, the giants of sports broadcasting are one step closer to being all gone as well.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The State of the Blog 2008

The Management

Last year in the annual summary, we reported on a steady rise in the volume of traffic at Our Word. That trend has not markedly continued this year; partly, perhaps, because we’ve cut back on our commentary on other blogs. In order to drive traffic you really need to make yourself visible, and that’s something we haven’t done a lot of in the last year. Maybe it’s because we spend so much time trying to figure out what to write on our own site, we don’t have time to share anything with others. However, it also has to do with the nature of the blogosphere itself.

Why blog?

It’s a simple enough question, one our colleague Terry has asked in many different ways. It would seem as if there are at least as many different answers as there are questions. But as we survey The State of the Blog for 2008, it becomes an issue worth discussing.

For our friends and fellow bloggers, we need to note that if your site is listed on our sidebar, we’re not talking about you, so we don’t want you to think that this is aimed at you. Frankly, as Terry has pointed out, there has to be a degree of ego, of self-absorption, of publicity seeking (if you will) in all of us, or else we wouldn’t think that any of our thoughts were worth the time of day. However, in surveying the blogosphere and our part in it, it helps to look back at what’s out there, and where we fit in. And this is the state of this blog as we see it.

Now, there are blogs out there that seem to detail every single aspect of the writer’s life, no matter how significant it may be. Think of it as the “Dear Diary” approach, the idea that somewhere out there is bound to be someone sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear the latest activities of the writer’s life. In previous days one might have kept these thoughts private, or at least confined them to a real diary, lock and all, but this is the 21st century, and why pass up an opportunity to share your life with everyone? We’re all entitled to our fifteen minutes of fame, after all. The best struggle to rise above the level of self-centeredness, and the worst are just plain boring.

Then there’s what you might call the “True Confessions” mode, in which not only the most insignificant but the most intimate details of the writer’s thoughts are bared for all and sundry to read. Someone from the old school might be uncomfortable about divulging such personal details to perfect (or imperfect) strangers, but, in the world of Oprah and Dr. Phil and The View, nothing is apparently too private anymore. There’s probably some Freudian principal of repression at work in it all, the thought that nothing is best left unsaid. A couple of years ago a formerly Catholic blogger discussed at length his conversion to the Orthodox church, and it was just painful to read. The temptation is to shout, “Don’t you understand? This isn’t any of our business! Don’t play it out in public!” But nowadays we do air our personal laundry in public, and then we wonder why the resulting conversations become so personal. It’s bad enough when someone invades your own private space; it’s even worse when one gets rid of their private space as well.

Running through many of these blogs is the attitude of the “Know-It-All,” the one who feels compelled to give his or her own opinion on whatever it is that’s going on out there, often making their pronouncements with a gravity that suggests some special storehouse of knowledge. You think to yourself, “Why do I care what this person thinks?” And they seem to think it’s their responsibility to comment on everything. It’s bad enough when professional pundits do this; when amateurs do it, it can set your teeth on edge. I think all of us at Our Word are sensitive to this tendency ourselves; many times I ask whether or not my writing has anything constructive or enlightening to contribute to the discussion; if, in fact, it’s something that’s even worth writing about. More often than not, if the answers are no, the piece goes on the spike – or in the trash bin, if you prefer.

In particular, there’s a blogger out there that did as much as anyone to drive us out of the Catholic blogosphere. His site proudly proclaims that “No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!” and then goes on to prove it. This isn’t meant to be a harsh assessment, but in reading his site one literally comes to the conclusion that every single thing running through his mind winds up appearing on his blog. Not only that, but his opinions are often expressed in so pugnacious a manner as to turn off anyone who might be seeking an honest dialog on an issue of disagreement. No doubt this writer has enlightened many to the wisdom of Catholicism, but at the same time how many people have been turned off by his attitude and incivility, which often devolves into name-calling? People like that, one suspects, aren’t really looking for an honest discussion; they’re really only interested in putting down the other guy. You couldn't look for a better description of this trait than the one from Michael Crichton, quoted by Mollie at Get Religion:

I grew up in the 1950s, supposedly the heyday of conformity, but there was much more freedom of opinion back then. And as a result, you knew that your neighbors might hold different views from you on politics or religion. Today, the notion that men of good will can disagree has disappeared. Can you imagine! Today, if I disagree with you, you conclude there is something wrong with me. This is a childish, parochial view. And of course stupefyingly intolerant. It’s truly anti-American.

In fact, encountering that kind of intransigence usually serves only to stiffen the opposition of those with an opposing viewpoint. Many of us share this particular Catholic blogger's reservations about the war, about the moral fiber of America, about the two political parties; but after reading him you’re tempted to come out in violent opposition to just about anything he says, purely out of spite. That’s not a good reaction for anyone to have, but you have to think he deserves at least a share of the blame for going out of his way to provoke that kind of reaction.

So where does this leave us? Our rule of thumb is if you’d be uncomfortable seeing your material appear in a nationally syndicated newspaper column, you’re probably better off forgetting about it. That’s why we shy away from the diary approach, why we leave confessions to the church confessional. We’re not averse to expressing our opinions when we have them, but we try to do it in such a way that invites civil, intelligent discussion. Frankly, it’s often a lot more fun to have a stimulating argument with someone with whom you disagree, as long as there’s mutual respect and enjoyment involved. Life’s too short, and words too precious, to waste them on preaching to the choir.

So as we enter another year at Our Word, we’ll continue to try to provide our readers with pieces we think are interesting, entertaining, or informative. Hopefully, on occasion we’ll accomplish all three. But our goal, as always, is to strive for a high level of literacy and professionalism, to write with an originality and intelligence worthy of our readers, and to display a flair and panache while doing so. Most of all, we hope to do it while maintaining a sense of dignity and civility, as a means of showing your our respect.

* * * * *

Having said all that, we’ll now ask your indulgence to allow us a personal note. As of this weekend, Mitchell will be taking the summer off from the blog in order to work on another writing project. That doesn’t mean he’s going to completely disappear, as there are some things out there so outrageous, only he can write them. But you’ll be reading him much less frequently for the next few months. (Please, hold your applause until the end.)

In his stead, Kristin has agreed to assume the role of Principal Contributing Editor, so you’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the following months. Judie will act as Principal Managing Editor, so have no fears that Our Word will grind to a halt – nothing else will change. And over the course of the summer, you may even encounter some special contributors from time to time. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Quick Takes

By Mitchell

  • With Formula 1 about to make its only North American stop of the season for the Canadian Grand Prix, it seemed like a good time to check in on our old friend, the beleagured Max Mosley. And it seems that Max has dodged yet another bullet, receiving a vote of confidence from the F1 governing body despite the sordid Nazi-role play sex scandal that involved him a few months ago. Well, what is it they say? Unlucky in love. . .
  • In that April 27, 1974 TV Guide I mentioned in yesterday's piece, there's this teaser regarding an upcoming ABC News investigation of illegal immigration: "More than 660,000 illegal immigrants to the United States were deported last year, but they are considered to be only a fraction of the number that remain. . . Most of the illegal immigrants come across the Mexican border." As I said yesterday, sometimes the more things change. . .
  • I know McCain's soft on illegal immigration, but I think we can be pretty sure he didn't have anything to do with that, since he'd just gotten out of a POW camp the year before. At least, I hope that's the case.
  • One last note on yesterday's piece, and that Bowie performance of Heroes I linked to. I admit I've always been fond of that song, having used it as the theme during my campaign back in '98. I think what particularly attracted me to it was the line, "We can beat them,/Forever and ever/We can be heroes,/Just for one day." Apparently, one day was all the heroism we had in that campaign, and that was the day we won the party endorsement. It was all downhill from there!
  • OK, one more thing. Today, if you were going to use that song in a political campaign, you'd look at the candidates you had to choose from and the line that would stand out the most is probably "Though nothing will drive them away." I'm just sayin'!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day

By Mitchell

The nice thing about collecting vintage TV Guides is that you never know what you're going to find when you open the pages. The latest series of acquisitions to the Hadley library includes the issue of April 27, 1974. Watergate and cynicism are riding high at that point in time, along with the rise of "relevant" television. Against that backdrop, writer Edith Efron hosts a roundtable discussion on the question of "What makes a hit" television program. Among the participants is the famed television producer of the 60s and 70s, Quinn Martin (The Fugitive, The FBI, The Streets of San Francisco, among many hits). In the course of the discussion, Martin talks about the values he imparts in his programs, one of which is the belief in heroes:

We're hitting the great heartland of America, and they want shows where the leading man does something positive, and has a positive result. Every time you go against that, you can almost automatically say you are going to fail. . . I believe in heroes myself. And I know that people sitting in American living rooms will just not accept an antihero, or a bad protagonist.

The conversation continues as to what makes a hero, and again Martin is firm in his belief that being a hero requires heroic actions. He's joined in the discussion by Star Trek guru Gene Roddenberry, and Grant Tinker, creator of the Mary Tyler Moore and Bob Newhart shows:

Efron: Didn't the relevant shows tend to be antiheroic shows?

Martin: I'm nt sure. The ones I remember [young, idealistic, public interest lawyers and activists]. . . had heroic people - but they were all involved in very heavy material.

Roddenberry: But were they heroes? Were they faced with jeopardy? Going around and helping people is not being faced with jeopardy. They weren't heroes.

Tinker: No, they weren't heroes. The Storefront Lawyers, all those shows had protagonists who were social-worker types. They were all antiheroes. . . They were cheek-turners. I can't remember a cheek-turner who has ever made it in TV.

This is a fascinating discussion on many levels. For one thing, it shows how much television has changed. The antihero - that is, the protagonist who doesn't act in the classic hero mold - is now pretty much the de rigeur lead in most television shows. And for Quinn Martin, who couldn't imagine the American public identifying with a bad protagonist - well, suffice to say that he would not have been able to imagine the taste of the American public today.

But I want to come back to this talk about heroes, because it ties into an article written a couple of weeks ago by James Bowman. The topic: Indiana Jones and the death of the traditional hero.

Now I know what you're thinking. "Who, you might ask, could possibly be more heroic than Indiana Jones?" I thought the same thing; I've always had a soft spot for Indy and his larger-than-life adventures. Yet I'll concede the point to Bowman, at least in part. For, according to Bowman, Indiana Jones has changed the landscape of the movie hero - and not for the better:

[Jones] was outwardly a man among men, just like the movie heroes of old when played by John Wayne or Gary Cooper. But it quickly became apparent that, underneath that fedora and leather jacket, there beat the heart of a superhero — someone whose adventures could not have taken place in the world as we know it but only the comic book world formerly confined, cinematically, to Saturday morning serials. Since then the cartoon hero has proven to be a particularly stubborn growth in the cinematic garden, a hearty weed which hoovers up all the nutrients and starves more delicate flora. He is the kudzu of the movie culture, the zebra mussel that has taken over a whole entertainment ecosystem. Today, apart from anti-heroes and victim heroes, it’s cartoon heroes all the way. And now we welcome back the prototype of the cartoon hero if he were a hero indeed. Perhaps we’ve forgotten what real heroes look like.

From here, Bowman discusses the general slide of the movie itself into a form of social amusement for teens, with disasterous results: "the taste of the American 8th grader has become the world’s taste." This state of perpetual adolesence, Bowman concludes, has led to the denigration of true heroism - with the cartoon hero being the only hero most people see, it becomes harder and harder to appreciate what a truly heroic act is, and the kind of courage and sacrifice that heroism requires in real life:

But if you go back and look at the best John Wayne movies — The Searchers, say, or Stagecoach or Red River or Fort Apache or The Sands of Iwo Jima or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance — they are full of difficult moral choices. The hero fails at least as often as he succeeds and he sometimes dies. It’s a lot like real life. We admire the John Wayne hero just because he’s not a Superman — or an Indiana Jones.

Ah, but it's too black-and-white for us today. And that's the true irony of it, for back in the smarmy, cynical 70s, we ridiculed Quinn Martin and his like for creating simplistic, one-dimentional characters. Efrem Zimbalist Jr., the hero of The FBI, was a cardboard creation, we said, too good to be believable. Now, we live in a world where our heroes have traveled 180 degress, and we embrace them precisely because they're too good to be true. Heroism is just another means of escapism, something with which we need not concern ourselves in our daily lives.

Ah, well. I'm often fond of pointing out that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true, for as time goes on, things often change beyond recognition.


And by the way, for those of you wondering about the title of this piece, here is the original reference point.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Humor Break

By Drew

To the tune of "Bicycle Built for Two":

Daisy, Daisy,
Give me your answer, do!
I'm half crazy
Over Pope Paul's point of view.
It may lead to world starvation,
But constant procreation
Is what we're for
It says in your
Encyclical made for two.

Crosbie's Dictionary of Puns

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Harvey Korman, R.I.P.

By Drew

Harvey Korman. Funny guy. Very funny guy.

With Tim Conway: The Carol Burnett Show.

Without Tim Conway: Any good Mel Brooks movie (Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety).

Odds Harvey Korman can be replaced: unlikely.

Odds Tim Conway will make people break up laughing at a Harvey Korman memorial: 1:2.

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