Thursday, August 28, 2008

Musings of What Was Formerly Labor Day

By Bobby

Random thoughts:

Labor Day was removed from the holiday calendar after 2004, when it was moved to November. The Ferko lawsuit forced the Southern 500 in the Florence suburb of Darlington to be moved to Forth Worth, Texas. That's why Palmetto State residents do not observe such a "day" because of the court's decision to force NASCAR to kill the Grand Slam by moving the Florentine major to Fort Worth, Texas. (The other three majors are the Daytona 500, Aaron's 499, and Coca-Cola 600; from 1985 until 1997, a $1 million bonus was awarded for a Small Slam; eight drivers -- B. Allison, D. Earnhardt Sr, D. Pearson, D. Waltrip, J. Gordon, EW Baker Jr, R. Petty, JK Johnson -- won all four majors.)

Phil Hill, the first Formula One champion of the States, died this week. The 81-year old Californian was America's first F1 world champion, yet on his coronation, did not race his home grand prix to coronate his championship, as Scuderia Ferrari did not participate at Watkins Glen because of Von Trips' death. He won three each of les 24 Heures du Mans (with just two drivers, and without l'Arche and La Floranidére) and the 12 Hours of Sebring, and twice each at Monza (twice, both times on the 10k track) and Spa (the full 8.76 mile track when it was city streets, not the present permanent Spa). Godspeed, Phil.

Adoro Te Devote 's "Liturgy on Broadway" column was perfect considering what too many Emergent churches have been performing. In one church in Anderson (165 miles from home through 26, 385, and 85), they opened a church service with Beyoncé Knowles as church music. Similar things also take place at Granger Community in Indiana, where the Gospel is not even taught while entertainment fills that "church". I wonder what she can say.

A college friend who blogs on Blogspot just posted tragic news with one of her friends. She linked to her childhood friend's Blogspot where word came that Elliana, her friend's daughter, died Thursday after 27 days of fighting after having Trisomy 13.

There is something about standing on the playing of "Also Sprach Zarusthra". When I was in college, we stood as the home team came on the field to that music. When I graduated from college the orchestra played it for us. My former voice teacher said on her master's degree graduation that she was scared of that song. She had to learn to love it. A popular "professional wrestler" from Minnesota used it as entrance music. For me, it always means excitement. But to too many where I live, that song is prohibited because of what they call "enemy music". Of course, they're pro-country and rock and cannot tolerate those who sing sacred arias.


NOTE: EW Baker Jr -- Buddy Baker's legal name is Elzie Wylie Baker, Jr. Designation used to prevent confusion with father Buck (Elzie Wylie Sr). JK Johnson -- Jimmie Johnson's middle name is Kenneth. The use of his middle initial prevents confusion with Robert Glen Johnson, Jr, known as "Junior". Also prevents confusion in the NASCAR archives with other drivers surnamed Johnson whose first initial is J.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Revisiting the Quiz Show Scandal

By Mitchell

Yes, it's been a little quiet here this month. Kristen is in the process of getting settled after moving, Steve has been busy at work, Drew has something going but it's not done yet, and we've been busy with other projects. It's been up to Bobby to carry the workload, which he has done admirably. Hopefully, things will pick up a bit after Labor Day.

Having said that, has anyone seen last month's article in the The New Yorker by Charles Van Doren? The former television sensation has finally broken his nearly half-century silence to discuss his role in the infamous quiz show scandals of the late 50s.

Most people familiar with Van Doren today probably get the bulk of their information either from the excellent PBS documentary of the mid 90s, or from Robert Redford's very good movie Quiz Show, which starred Ralph Fiennes as Van Doren and John Tuturro as the tortured Herb Stempel, whose rigged "defeat" on the game show Twenty One would eventually lead to the unravelling of the scandal. And while both the documentary and the movie are very good at whetting one's appetite for more information, anyone truly interested in the time would be doing themselves a disservice were they to accept these versions - particuarly the Redford movie - as definitive renditions of the truth.

I have to admit that I've always admired Charles Van Doren. I know that sounds odd, to say that one admires a man who was an admitted cheat and fraud who - at least for a time - benefitted greatly from that deception. And one could also argue that the era of the quiz show scandals introduced a cynicism into popular culture that has only grown in the decades since.

But it should be pointed out that celebrity has always been based on deception, and that Van Doren was neither the first nor the last to be publicly exposed as being not quite what everyone thought him to be. And while the modern celebrity often uses his misdeed to rejuvinate his career - think Jimmy Swaggert's embarrassingly tearful television, or Hugh Grant's charmingly roguish fess-up on the Jay Leno show - there was something different about Van Doren, particularly in his reaction to the scandal.

Van Doren had gained greatly from his TV triumph, and not only in terms of money. Van Doren won well over $100,000 from his stint on Twenty-One, appeared on the cover of Time, and joined NBC's Today show. With his obvious intelligence, his boyish good looks, and his engaging personality (not to mention his distinguised background - teacher at Columbia, son of the poet Mark Van Doren, and nephew of the historian Carl Van Doren), he was the perfect made-for-TV star. The world was, indeed, his oyster.

Consequently, Van Doren's fall from grace, culminating in his appearance before a U.S. House committee investigating the scandals, was equally spectacular. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, lost his position at Columbia and his job at NBC, lost his good name and the affection of the public. But what made Van Doren unique was his acceptance of his fall. Unlike today's celebrities, he did not attempt to cash-in on his infamy. There were no tearful appeals for forgiveness, no accusations of persecution, no attempt to portray himself as an innocent victim taken advantage of by others. He didn't write a tell-all book trying to explain it away, he didn't go on talk shows to rehabilitate his image. Van Doren simply accepted his exile as being appropriate punishment for his deception, and disappeared from view. He became an editor at Encyclopaedia Brittanica, wrote several scholarly books (including some under his own name), and continued teaching, which he does even to this day. And until last month, he never spoke publicly about what had happened.

Van Doren on Twenty-One

In his New Yorker article, Van Doren for the first time gives his side of the story, as well as recounting various attempts to lure him back into the public eye. While he clearly shows how the staff of Twenty-One manipulated the results of the show, he does not attempt to avoid blame for his own role in the scandal. Perhaps most remarkably, he candidly discusses his struggle with the seductive nature of fame and fortune. In particular, he relates how Julian Krainin, writer and co-producer of the PBS documentary on the scandal, had approached him in 1990 and dangled before him the idea that Van Doren should host a series on PBS about the great philosophers. It was a seductive idea, he readily admits, in part because it was a program he would easily have been able to handle.

She offered similar advice when Van Doren was approached for a much more lucrative deal by Krainin, who was now working with Robert Redford on the movie that would become Quiz Show. The deal this time: $100,000 in return for a statement by Van Doren attesting to the movie's “guarantee of its truthfulness." It was a very tempting offer; as Van Doren pointed out to his wife, the movie would be made with or without his cooperation, so why not profit off of it? Her response: “Please don’t be a fool.” Ultimately, Van Doren turned down both offers, but the article provides a stark and honest self-assessment by Van Doren of his own vulnerabilities, and an acknowledgement that had he taken his wife's advice in the first place, his role in the scandal never would have happened.

Van Doren also provides some very interesting insights into his relationship with his father Mark. I always thought that Paul Scofield's portrayal of the elder Van Doren in Quiz Show was one of the movie's highlights: thoughtful, human and humane, very touching. As is often the case, the real Mark Van Doren was even more impressive. Father and son never overtly discussed the scandal (unlike the portrayal in the movie), but in his son's telling, there is no question that Mark knows his son well enough to know exactly what happened. Van Doren's depiction of his relationship with his father is a moving one.

We all knew that Quiz Show had inaccuracies, like most movies that purport to tell a true story. Jeff Hart, an editor at National Review and friend of the Van Doren family, wrote a scathing review regarding the fabrications in the father-son relationship, among other things. And then there's the gross overstatement of the role Dick Goodwin played, virtually ignoring the pioneering work done by the Manhattan D.A.'s office. Nonetheless, Quiz Show excels on its own merits as a fine period piece, a movie that gives insight into a remarkable period in our cultural history; perhaps we were more naïve than we are now, perhaps less, but we were certainly different.

It is, however, in Van Doren's own story that we finally get his own account of what actually happened. That's not to say that his story should be taken at face value any more than that of anyone else, but the self-facing, unsparing way in which he presents his own faults and weaknesses, does lend an air of authenticity.

In the end, Charles Van Doren's role in the quiz show scandals was not a noble one, but he has never tried to present it otherwise - and there is something quite noble about that.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Feminising the Church

By Bobby

A Nashville-area pastor had noticed his congregation was full of women and lacked men. He asked where the men had gone, and had written a reference to how a service started at his church, and it confirmed what I have said for a long time about men not being there.

He noted as the lights dim, the pop-rock music begins as to start "worship". He looks and finds mostly women who lift their hands while singing these mostly secular songs that are popular. It could look like a popular women's conference. Alas, the writer noted, this is not a woman and this was not at the conference. This was a pastor of one of the popular "Emergent" models but he noted too many churches lack participation and leadership from men.

The man behind the Web site blamed it on church music, with that being called "today's music" or "cool, relevant" having made God into a "lover". In churches of this type, today's Christ is labeled as sensitive, caring, full of beauty, and the "worship music" has " the same breathless feel and romantic lyrics as top-40 love songs. Instead of following God, it is now having to have a "personal relationship". Such songs were criticsed by former Nixon assistant Charles Colson as one lacking theological content unlike the sacred hymns in classical music we enjoy, and the questionable material could be sung at a nightclub(1). (One such Emergent church in Los Angeles meets at a nightclub.)

I've seen this at church, and a rock-solid sacred anthem that may have been sung by a Walter Cuttino, Marc Rattray, Kerri Roberts(2), or Cynthia Hanna that has been considered a "masculine anthem" by the author has been tossed in favour of modern choruses laden with lyrics similar to love songs such as "You are beautiful, my sweet, sweet song" and "You're altogether lovely"(3). We don't think of God as a strong, solid man who can defeat Satan. The author than noted how can a man sing lyrics such as those consciously?

Even the hymnals are changing. One major denomination has clearly feminised their upcoming hymnal by having such "modern worship" tunes, which are sung to rock bands, to replace the great sacred song that usually require an organ. They boast it is "cool," "relevant," and "modern," but what does it say when they are clearly lacking the doctrine, theology, and even the rock-solid themes of the great hyms and sacred song of the past? No wonder many churches would rather sing the latest rock song off the radio than to sing from Elijah (Mendelsson), The Creation (Haydn), or any sacred song sung from centuries ago, including the great hymns.(4)

(1) Charles Colson, "Musical Mush: Are We Impairing Our Capacity to Think," BreakPoint, February 6, 2006. The transcript is available here.


(3) The former song is "You Are So Good To Me," Don Chaffer, Ben Pasley, and Robin Pasley/Copyright Blue Renissance Music / Hey Ruth Music / ASCAP (administered by Warner Music Group) Squint Songs. The latter is "Here I Am to Worship," Tim Hughes. Copyright EMI.

(4) I have sung "O Rest in the Lord" from Mendelssohn's Elijah at a recital, and am working on "If With All Your Hearts" from the same work. I attended a concert in June where my voice teacher sang the soprano solos in Haydn's The Creation. The two of us have been involved in numerous productions of Händel's Messiah.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

This Just In

Classic Steve

“National Night Out" Events Creating Fear, Isolation in Many Neighborhoods, Study Shows

BETHESDA, MD — “National Night Out,” a grassroots movement created 30 years ago to foster a spirit of community and good will, and to give citizens a chance to meet and get to know their neighbors, may actually be having the opposite effect, according to a recent study.

(Left) "Are they gone yet?" Bob Windmere peers cautiously out his window, wondering if his "neighbors" have ceased invading his personal space through their National Night Out "festivities," which in reality are more like torture sessions.

“What’s happening is full of irony,” says Dr. Suzanne Loudwright, of the National Center for Community Research. “People actually hate these gatherings so much that many of them turn out their lights and pretend they aren’t home rather than attend them. We hear stories of entire families, sitting in the dark, frightened, almost cowering, peering out of their windows, and waiting for it all to be over so they can get back to their normal lives.”

As one man in a northwestern Washington D.C. suburb describes it, there’s a lot to be afraid of out there.

“It can be scary,” says Bob Windmere, who lives in a typical middle-class neighborhood with neatly-manicured lawns and large shade trees . “You get the Night Out flyer inviting you to a potluck dinner fixed by who knows who, consisting of casseroles made of who knows what. You have to try some if you’re brave enough to go out there, and it scares me to death of what kind of intestinal attack I might have later.

“Then you get stuck talking to people you don’t know and probably don’t even like, about subjects that are meaningless. It feels like your head could explode at any minute. But you feel the pressure to get out there. Haven't these people ever heard of 'personal space'? It’s easier to just hide in your house until it’s all over. Last year my wife and I went to the local Starbucks and sat drinking coffee for three hours until we knew it was safe to go home. Only problem was, it wasn’t decaf, and it kept us awake half the night. Thank God this happens only once a year.”

The Left's Idea of Labour

By Bobby

The warning Wal-Mart Stores Inc offered about an Obama victory combined with a Democratic government monopoly is serious enough to warrant explanation of what might happen in your neighbourhood, especially in a smaller town, as which there are many in any state in the union.

It is shortly after Inauguration Day, and Pelosi imposes a ban on opposition speech, something that is quickly adopted by Reid. In essence, if you are members of the opposition, the right to speak your displeasure, propose alternative legislation, or even discuss the issues is banned. The Fairness Doctrine is passed that kills many radio stations, turning many of the popular news/talk stations into gangster rap stations or other “popular” music formats featuring talentless “singers” whose lack of talent and inability to use anything but explicit language and danceable beats, as federal authorities' spying on radio station makes formerly popular programmes such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Michael Reagan banned under new federal regulations demanding “fairness”. Meanwhile, outrageous liberal propaganda is mandated such as radio and television programming requires stations to air government propaganda to push for same-sex “marriage”, the virtues of a windfall profits tax, the repeal of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and the virtues of state-run medical systems.

Another rule imposed by Congress is similar to the Brady Rule (see here for details) where legislators are not permitted to blog or appear on any sites but those approved by leadership. This prevents legislators from appearing on any blog, news program, or any media site unless it is approved by the Speaker or Majority Leader (depending on the branch of which the legislator is a member), and brings down legislators who blog on sites such as Townhall, or appearing on any news program.

As a result of such rules, the outcry towards a labor reform bill that sneaked into Congress by the ensuing media blackout is absent, and a labor reform package that outlaws Right to Work States, mandates forced unionism, legalising the closed shop , repealing Beck Rights (which prohibit a worker's union dues from going into non-collective bargaining issues, such as campaigning for same-sex “marriage” or political campaigning for pro-labour candidates), legalising the card check (a union is authorised for a company by majority of workers signing a card, and not a vote by secret ballot) and prohibiting businesses from hiring replacement workers during a labor stoppage is passed easily by the liberals in Congress without debate under congressional rules on bills fast-tracked by Pelosi and Reid, and promptly signed by the President.

That situation in the above paragraph is what concerns Wal-Mart and other major non-union firms, most notably FedEx, have a serious concern.

In a small neighborhood, about 100 miles from a medium size or large city, there is only one grocery store in the city, and the nearest grocery store is in that city. The new laws passed by the liberal leaders results in the food workers' union imposing a card check that passes. Weeks later, the new union attempts to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that includes closing stores on Eid, Ramadan (sunrise to sunset only), and Césár Chávez' Birthday, but does not include Christmas, Easter, or Independence Day, and imposes a much higher pay scale than other grocers 100 miles away. The grocer balks on the absurd schedule proposed by the union, and the union decides to strike against the grocer. Union policies prohibit any employee from breaking the strike under penalty of losing their job, and with new federal laws imposed to prohibit the grocer from hiring replacement workers, the grocer is forced to close while the strike takes place. Angry neighbors have to drive 100 miles to the grocery store in the large city in their 2-seat microcars that cannot carry a family grocery shopping list, while others are stranded because of government-mandated electric cars that run out of power midway through the drive. Public transportation is not available to the grocer in the other city because the transportation union decides to sympathise with the food workers' union, and imposes policies to prohibit the city from offering the alternative in the large city. A week later, a rainstorm comes on the day most families are grocery shopping, and a Big One on a country road leads to a severe crash that injure drivers of the microcars involved as they were in a procession to the nearest grocery store that is open because of the local grocer's closure caused by the strike. The injured drivers are not even treated at the hospital because government-run healthcare prohibits checkups for crashes and instead pays for the doctors to kill the victims instead of having them treated.

The overall cost of the strike is expensive fuel bills because families have to drive 200 miles – 2 ½ hours each way with new speed limits designed to save the earth – and use two-thirds of the gas tank in their microcars to do the grocery shopping, spending considerably more to shop for food, meat, eggs, bread, vegetables, and other necessities of life because of the strike.

Meanwhile, the complaints are silenced because of federal media policies that prohibit the neighbour from calling the local radio station and discussing the issue. Instead, the station keeps playing government-mandated “music” from gangster rap types, and the media policy prohibits the newspaper from discussing the issue. The labor strife between the union and grocer continues and the union tells other supermarkets not to come to the city under their threats.

The overall result is the entire city is wiped out because of the inability to do anything while the unions' strongarm policy has prohibited anything from happening.

This is the type of dangerous activity that could happen with liberals imposing their strong arm law of the land. Wal-Mart's warning about an Obama presidency was intended to show what could happen under such leadership with the heavy labour-infested policies, and what I have written would be an example of what such leadership would do to a neighborhood.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


By Mitchell

A couple of passings that we should note today. I wish I had my usual time to devote to them, but I would be remiss in not saying something.

First, Solzhenitsyn. I don't know if young people can truly appreciate the impact he made. For that matter, I don't know that people of the time really understood it. When I was in high school Solzhenitsyn was a fashionable read, and I don't mean that critically. It was that he was seen in the same light as Tolkien, or Bradbury, or the other writers who captured the imaginations of young minds looking for something of substance. In lieu of any attempt on my part to add to the significance of the man's greatness (for who am I to try and instruct others in Solzhenitsyn? I hardly think people will wake up tomorrow wondering what Hadley thought of it all) I'd refer you to Jay Nordlinger's reminiscences of Solzhenitsyn, followed by a link to "the speech," entitled “A World Split Apart,” that summarized for so many the meaning of the struggle between good and evil, and why the fight against Communism was - and is - worth fighting. And he said it at a time when so many in this country lacked the courage to do so.

Some lives are lived greater than others, but that doesn't necessarily mean that other lives lack the impact. Skip Caray, of the famed Caray announcing family (son of Harry and father of Chip), and known to so many around the country from the days of the Braves on TBS, died today as well. Skip Caray had a warm and friendly presence, as if he and his listeners were sharing the Braves together. In his mind, the Braves weren't "his" team, they were "ours" - yours and his both. After Chip left the Cubs and came to the Braves, it was a pleasure listening to father and son sharing the love of baseball that fathers and sons are supposed to share. In retrospect, you have to recall the last Braves game last year, the last game to be broadcast on TBS before the new contract that replaced Braves games with a generic "Game of the Week." You could hear in Skip's voice how hard it was to understand why this was happening - weren't we all happy with the way things were? We've had a good thing going all these years, why stop now?

He was right, of course. Braves games had become a way of life for so many around the country: Braves fans who had moved way, but also baseball fans who didn't have a team of their own to root for. These were the fans who adopted the Braves, long before they became a powerhouse, and they adopted everything about them, including Skip Caray and the rest of the announcing crew (Pete Van Wieren and Don Sutton, among others). Like the greatest of the announcers, Skip Caray wasn't out to distract the fans from the game, and by not doing so he became an integral part of the game. He was smart, funny, smooth - and he will be missed.

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