Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Opera Wednesday

By Mitchell Hadley

By now, I suspect most people with an interest in this sort of thing have heard about the fiasco at opening night of the Metropolitan Opera. The New Yorker's Alex Ross has perhaps the best, most balanced take I've read on Luc Bondy's new production of Tosca, and what's wrong with it.

Some have commented on the apparent blasphemy of the production, with Scarpia rather sexually fondling a statue of the Virgin Mary during the Te Deum that concludes Act 1. And as the picture below demonstrates, while it’s true nobody knows for certain what Mary Magdeline actually looked like, I feel somewhat safe in assuming nobody ever painted her looking quite like that. I suppose Bondy could claim that his efforts to give us a new Tosca required him to make a clean breast of the whole thing, but I digress.

Above: tenor Marcelo Alvarez as the painter Cavaradossi
with his rendition of St. Mary Magedeline.

The thing of it is, I’m not even sure what Bondy did was intended to be blasphemous. Were he to argue that he was merely trying to demonstrate Scarpia’s monstrosity, I might be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was probably just part of his larger effort to be provocative, to bring what he would call a new dimension to Puccini's classic.

While the bulk of the critics' appraisal of this performance has been, well, critical, there have been some who've welcomed Bondy's efforts to inject some new blood into what they saw as the moth-eaten Franco Zefferilli production which the Met has been using for the last umpteen-some years. The audience's loud reaction to the production is further evidience, they would say, of the public's unwillingness to accept anything that smacks of new and different. We're just too stuffy, it would seem, to appreciate great art when we're presented with it.

And this brings me to the point of this essay: the question of change. Opera has to change with the times; the theater is not static, but a living organism that constantly adapts to its environment - well, you've heard all the arguments.


Why do people purchase DVDs of movies? Is it to watch them once and then dispose of them like a cheap camera that's done its job? No – you have Netflix for that. People buy movies because they want to see them over and over again – they like the fact they know not only what's coming next, but how it happens. We watch our favorite movies, we know our favorite parts by heart, we delight in the anticipation of hearing “I’m shocked, shocked, to find gambling in this establishment” over and over again; we even nudge your companions as if to say, “Here it comes!”

At the same, however, you never stop seeing something new, even in a movie you’ve seen fifteen or so times. I have a friend who’s watched It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmas for decades, and he still finds some little bit he hasn’t noticed before, something that gives him a fresher insight into the movie.

Does that prevent stories from being retold over the years, with different directors, actors and designers? Of course not. Technologies change, things that weren’t possible years ago have now become commonplace, insights – whether into human psychology, history, or filmmaking itself – allow us to try new and different things. Sound and color itself were major innovations, and they were put to good use when the silent classic Ben-Hur was remade in 1959. Sometimes these things work, sometimes they don’t, but often they’re worth trying.

And occasionally the new version is superior to the old – the 1959 Ben-Hur won 11 Oscars, and it’s difficult to remember anyone other than Charlton Heston in the title role. Batman Begins was a reimagination of the beginning of the Batman myth that introduced a much denser psychology into the origins of the Caped Crusader, and along with the sequel The Dark Knight helped elevate this morality play beyond the normal confines of the comic book.

But movies such as Batman Begins are often called “relaunches” rather than “remakes,” and for good reason. It’s not just a story that’s being redone: it’s an entire image of what the story represents. Batman Begins didn’t simply retell the standard Batman story – it became an entirely different story, one that simply shared some elements with the original (and subsequent remakes), but was far more original itself. It’s rather like calling the Ford Mustang a remake of the Model-T – sure, there are some parts that they have in common, an engine, four wheels, a driveshaft – but the new far outweighs the old.

A few years ago the classic thriller The Manchurian Candidate was remade. The decision to remake the movie was less controversial than it might have been, since there was full cooperation from the Sinatra family, but the movie itself was a bomb. The new movie borrowed the title and the general idea, that of a presidential candidate whose strings are being pulled by an outside group, but the entire focus was changed: the evil puppetmasters were not the Red Chinese, but a sinister multinational corporation. Better that they should have changed the name of the movie altogether and settled for being called a Manchurian Candidate-like film, then suffer the comparisions to the original that inevitably come with a remake. The same could be said for Planet of the Apes, Rollerball, you name it.


Opera is no different. I know committed opera fans who have perhaps half a dozen different recordings of the same opera. They have the Callas recording of Tosca, of course, but they also have Renata Scotto, Montserrat Caballe, Renata Tebaldi - they all bring something different, some new shading to the role. And although many fans have their favorites, they savor the opportunity to compare and contrast, to debate the merits of each of the leading ladies and their supporting cast. In many cases they may even have multiple recordings of the same singer; there are probably at least a half-dozen different recordings of Callas - live and in the studio, spread over a number of years - and they can tell you how her voice changes over the years, how what she lacks in vocal power in her later years might be offset by her dramatic prowess, things like that. If you were to take that choice away - if you told people there was only one definitive version of Tosca - you'd have a lot of unhappy people.

This applies to the current Tosca, of course. As fabulous and well-loved as Zefferili's staging is, there's no reason it has to be the only one. There's room for more than one Tosca, if you make this important proviso: it has to be faithful to the text and to the psychology of the characters.

Case in point: Bondy's Tosca omits a number of nuances, gestures and the like. For one example, after Tosca fatally stabs Scarpia, she places two candles next to him, one on either side, and a Crucifix on his chest. Bondy omits these gestures. They're very familiar, as familiar as Hamlet carrying that skull while muttering "To be or not to be." One has to be tempted to make a change, just to be different if nothing else. But Tosca's Catholicism is an important part of her character. Her gestures with the candles and Crucifix are entirely in keeping with it. Remove them, and you haven't just tampered with a stage direction - you've started to mess with the character's psyche.

Another case in point: the stabbing itself. Traditionally, Tosca finds a knife or letter opener on a desk in Scarpia's office. As he comes to complete his "seduction," she stabs him with it. The killing is, in other words, anything but premeditated. If Tosca winds up getting hauled into court, she can claim self-defense. Bondy's production (as well as some others) portrays Tosca bringing the knife with her into the room. We then are subjected to her frantic begging with Scarpia, knowing the whole thing is a ruse if she's just going to stab him anyway. Not only does it mess with the character's motivation, it changes the entire dramatic dynamic: Tosca winds up looking even more manipulative than Scarpia.

Again, my point is that while some aspects of a production are there for no reason other than tradition (check out the many versions of A Christmas Carol to see what I mean), some of them are more than that - they play a crucial part in character development, the evolution of the story, what have you. When you start to tamper with that, for whatever reason, you're asking for trouble.


And that brings us to the ultimate question – does art exist as entertainment for its patrons, or does it exist for its own sake? A complicated question, to be sure, but try this on for size: if it’s functional, or meant to serve a purpose, it had better do it. If you charge money for it, it’s entertainment. If you display it for free, you can call it whatever you want.

Charging admission for a performance means that a piece has to serve a purpose, namely to provide entertainment for the patrons who purchased the ticket. It’s all well and good for an artist to talk about the purity and truth of his art, but if you’re going to ask people to fork over money to see it, you’d better give them something for their money. If you’re going to lecture them rather than entertain them, if you seek to provide education instead of (or in addition to) diversion, then you owe it to them to let them know up front. If your work bombs with the audience, and they stop buying tickets to see it, then it doesn’t matter what you call it, because we’ve already come up with a name for it: failure. Perhaps only in the short term (plenty of the operas we know and love bombed in their premieres), but failure nonetheless.

When that happens the artist has options: he can go back and make changes, trying to identify and deal with the shortcomings identified by the audience; he can withdraw the work altogether, hoping that a later generation will appreciate something that the current generation can’t (or won’t) see; or he can berate the audience for failing to live up to the standards set by the artist himself. It’s our fault, you see, for not recognizing the obvious genius of the artist, which is surely apparent – at least to the artist himself.

(In the same way we can say that any commissioned work has a purpose to serve, at least to the person who commissioned it. We can call a well-designed bridge a work of art, to be sure, but if it proves unable to support the weight of the load it’s expected to carry, then it’s a failure, no matter how cool it looks. And I suspect the taxpayers would agree.)


The inspiration for this essay began with the talk of blasphemy, and to drift off into other areas does not diminish the importance of that. Not only does the blasphemy appear nowhere in the orginial libretto, much of it runs contrary to the common sense of the story. Besides which, it's offensive for no good reason. Lord knows, we have enough in the world that's truly offensive without going out of our way to add more to it.

But I do have a larger point here, and it's this: it's perfectly fine to introduce alternative versions of a story, as long as you're willing to let the marketplace decide, and you don't insult the paying customers if they reject your version. There are two prominent opera companies in New York: the Met may be the bigger and better known, but for many years the New York City Opera was the more adventurous, presenting new works, new interpretations of old works, seldom-performed works, and so on. The two companies maintained a nice balance that way. If you wanted traditional, grand opera, you had the Met; if you were looking for something with a little bit of a twist, you went to NYCO. They both survived, at least until the recent economic downturn. But now that the Met is poaching, so to speak, on the City Opera's turf, what will happen? Good question.

It was with more than a touch of sadness that the Met retired their mammoth Otto Schenk production of Wagner's Ring Cycle last season. The Schenk Ring was classic, traditional, realistic. If you were looking for the abstract, the provocative, or the metaphorical, you were looking in the wrong place. With the exception of Seattle's opera, it was the only such Ring production left. Now that the production has been retired, we wonder what the new Ring will be like. We only know this - that one more option for the opera-going public has disappeared, and that the only alternative will be to retreat to DVD.

So to conclude: there's nothing wrong with change, as long as you don't destroy choice in the process. And if you don't like the Tosca that the public apparently likes, you're more than welcome to write your own Tosca, call it Zelda, and do whatever you want. It doesn’t even have to be better than the original – if it allows you to tell the story your way, and if it finds an audience that likes it, then it works.

Until then, if you're going to do an opera based on Tosca and you're also going to call it Tosca rather than Zelda, I’d suggest trying something more radical – sticking to the original story.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

William Safire, R.I.P.

By Mitchell Hadley

My first encounter with the powerful words of William Safire came from a novel he'd written shortly after leaving the Nixon White House, a political thriller called Full Disclosure that told the story of a president who had been blinded during an assassination attempt, and was now the target of political enemies who sought, under the terms of the 25th Amendment, to declare him incapacitated. It was a terrific read, full of everything a thriller should have – sex, blackmail, intrigue, deception – you name it.

What I remember most about that book was that there was no sense of the former White House staffer out to settle grudges, pursue ideological agendas, or the like. It may well have been present – in fact, given the vivid character portrayls, I’m fairly sure he might have used some real people as models along the way – but it didn’t overwhelm a book that moved at lightning speed. It was also rare in that it avoided proselytizing and pious moralizing and came at you more like a potboiler than a poli-sci textbook. (That came in his second novel, Freedom, a Civil War story that again gave us vivid characters but was so entwined with real events that it was forced to move at history’s slower pace rather than the breakneck speed of the novelist.) And it an age where we’ve gotten used to famous political figures of the past and present putting out sordid political thrillers with the assistance of ghost writers, there was no doubt that Safire was the author of every word between the covers.

Safire had been a terrific speechwriter; he was the author of the famous Spiro Agnew line “Nattering nabobs of negativism,” which should have put him in some kind of hall of fame for the alliteration alone. He was, I’d guess, one of the first of the celebrity political speechwriters, which I suppose means we have to hold him accountable for gadflies like Peggy Noonan, but given everything else he did, I think we can give him a pass on that. You can’t always blame the sins of the sons (and daughters) on the father, after all.

He was a long-time columnist for The New York Times, and I always had the impression that his experience there pushed him ever-so-softly toward the political center. (He endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992, but given that I’d campaigned for Pat Buchanan and had no great love myself for Bush, I suppose this too was a forgivable offense.) I didn’t agree with him on everything, but he was a pundit – Buchanan, with whom he had a regrettable falling-out in later years, is another – with whom you’d better be prepared to articulate your disagreements, because he could be most persuasive to a great many people.

His best work, however, might have been those delightful pieces on language, which were those of a man who in turn took delight in the language, finding it a wonderful linguistic sandbox that combined the precise nature of mathematics with the creative flair of the artist. The last book of his I bought was a collection of speeches by the famous and not-so-famous, valuable not only for the rhetorical brilliance of the speeches themselves, but also for Safire’s brief introductory notes, pointing out such things as the rhetorical tools and devices that made Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech so effective.

Safire was a fixture on shows like Meet the Press, but he was – first and foremost – a writer. It reminds me that one of the heroes of Full Disclosure was a young White House speechwriter who also happened to be quite the stud in bed. Coming from some writers, this would have fallen somewhere between audacity and self-aggrandizement, but in Safire’s hands, it seemed more tongue-in-cheek, an inside joke he couldn’t resist. I think that served William Safire well. He was very sharp, witty, brilliantly erudite – but you got the feeling that he didn’t really take it all that seriously.

At the same time, though, perhaps he was reminding us of the power of words, and of those who can put them together. Writing the powerful speech, as well as being able to deliver it, really is an art form. There’s an old saying that when Demosthenes spoke men applauded his courage, but when Cicero spoke, men said “let us march.” Pretty words can still make men march, but likely as not they’ll arrive at their destination (if there is one) wondering what it was all about. Pretty speakers can give pretty speeches that move the masses to tears, but an examination often shows little more than a vapid collection of phrases strung together, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.

William Safire died Sunday of cancer. Fortunately, as is the case with many craftsmen, he left behind much for us to appreciate.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stupidity in Government: Leno Promotes Obama Cars

By Bobby Chang

Did anyone notice that Rush Limbaugh's participation in Jay Leno's version of the BBC's Top Gear segment "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" features a celebrity driving a car built by the government that fits the feds' standards?

The 2011 Ford Focus electric plug-in, based on the Mazda Axela (also called the Mazda3), is smaller than the current Focus, and seemingly has Ford offering (except for the Mustang, Taurus, and F-Series) badge-engineered Mazdas, which makes Hiroshima the centre of Ford's operations, not Dearborn. It was recently uncovered they had accepted $5.9 billion in taxpayer funds to convert a plant that made trucks into one that made the Obama Approved Electric Cars such as the Focus plug-in demonstrated on Leno's new primetime programme. Of course, remember that GM and Chrysler were seized mostly because neither automaker built their product lines around the sub-compact, mini, and microcars that Ford told the feds they would offer, instead of the profit-making trucks and their variants that GM and Chrysler made as the majority of their vehicles.

What Leno is doing with the Top Gear style segment is to promote the type of cars the government wants us to drive, and turn us into Europe in the auto industry too with the tiny cars. This is taxpayers funding social engineering again by promoting small electric cars as part of their "save the earth" mantra that may not carry many, but saves the earth. And that reminded me of the report recently that taxpayer money went to a few electric car manufacturers to help push their variants of electric cars -- first Tesla (in the same lot that gave Ford and Nissan their cash), and now an electric car company pushed by Al Gore.

At this rate, can families even have a car once we get through this disturbing idea that the government should force us into electric cars?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Opera Wednesday

By Paul Drew

Those of you with an operatic bent have probably heard about the tumultuous debut of the Met's new production of Tosca on Monday night. I've been talking with Mitchell about this - well, different - production, and I believe he's got something in the works in the next few days.

But in the meantime, let's revisit a piece I did - can it be, over three years ago? It's a look at a real production of Tosca, and (with all due respect to Karita Mattila) a real diva in the role: Maria Callas, at her 1964 Covent Garden performance with the incomparable Tito Gobbi as the villanous Scarpia.


It was said that Callas didn't much like the character of Floria Tosca, whom she thought of as a "weak girl." Here, as her lover Cavaradossi is being tortured by Scarpia's henchmen, she sings one of the most famous arias in opera, Vissi d'arte. "Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore" – “I lived on art, I lived on love." In other words, it's all about poor me - what did I do in life to deserve this? Forget Cavaradossi - what about me?

(This isn't entirely fair, of course - Scarpia's blackmailing Tosca, claiming that he'll release Cavaradossi in return for one night of passion. I'd probably be inclined to wonder what I did to deserve this, myself.) Tosca goes on to kill Scarpia (in a clip I'll put up later on), and after a desperate attempt to save Cavaradossi's life fails, she commits suicide in despair. I trust I haven't ruined the ending for you.

Reading the YouTube comments on this is almost laughable. Everyone has an opinion on Callas (some of them quite insightful, actually), and a venomous attitude toward anyone who disagrees with that opinion (which doesn't really add much insight at all). What a lot of people forget is that opera is theater, not just music, and theater isn't always about the finest technical performance. It's about the experience. As for me, I don't pretend to be an expert, but I know what I like. Callas may be past her singing peak at this point but she can still bring it, and the drama of this scene with her old partner Gobbi - the experience, if you will - is thrilling.

I've heard the arguments about opera being dull, preposterous, difficult to follow, you name it. There's a lot to those arguments. But I'll defy you to feel that way after seeing Callas' anguish in this performance.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Putting the Stamp on Classic TV

By Mitchell Hadley

Terry Teachout has another nice piece on classic television, triggered (pun intended) by the new Dragnet postage stamp. Teachout discusses the significance of Dragnet in the history of television, and it prompts yet another pang of realization that there are entire generations out there who have no idea what we're talking about when we say, "Just the facts, ma'am"; or, if they do, they think of it as a campy punchline to the 60s revival.

Fact is, as Teachout points out, Dragnet was one of the grittiest of cop shows, presenting viewers with a new, entirely different view of police work - and, as Joe Friday called it, "the city." In watching the 50s Dragnet, it helps to remember that this is from pre-Miranda days, when interrogation methods were a bit more - shall we say - liberal.

As was the case with so many early series, Dragnet began life as a radio series before making the transition to television. One item that Teachout doesn't mention is that Dragnet was also the first television show to get the big screen treatment, in 1954, directed by star Jack Webb and featuring the original cast. The question Warner Bros. faced: would people really pay to see something they could see for free in their living rooms? Their answer: give them something they can't get at home. And so the 1954 Dragnet was shot in color, a fact of which the opening scene (two gunmen walking across a field) took full advantage. Suddenly the city looked different once again.

On a related note, for fans of hard-hitting 50s and 60s cop shows, don't forget Lee Marvin's only television series, the gritty, tough-as-nails M Squad, which was the unintentional inspiration for the hilarious, genre-ridiculing Police Squad. Here's a hint of it for those of you who haven't seen it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Avast, Ye Mateys!

By Mitchell Hadley

Aye, sure and it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so as always it be only fittin' that we be part o' the fun.


(And now, as a public service, we present Bobby's earlier post entirely in Pirate Talk.)

Aye, decline o' the Daytime Serial and Rise o' Premium Cable Aye.

Arrr, as the news this week relates t' Friday's conclusion, after 56+ years on tele'ision, and o'er 72 years o'erall includin' radio, o' Procter & Gamble's (The) Guidin' Light (the article was originally used in the early years), one intarstin' discussion came up in articles that war discussin' the demise o' the daytime serial drama (thar be only se'en remainin'; Gar, Where can I find a bottle o'rum?

Arrr, it brin's closer t' an end the era o' why a daytime serial drama was called a "soap," as in the past ten years Procter & Gamble has now lost two o' the shows they had, and have been dropped t' just one. Aye.

Arrr, we have sadly put "sleaze" and the National Academy o' Tele'ision Arts and Sciences as the arbiters o' what is quality tele'ision. Aye, me parrot concurs.


Finally, here be some o' our Pirate favorites.

Pirate Sports:

Pirate Opera:

Pirate Cartoons:

Ahoy, tis' sure great t' be a pirate, at least for one day. Gar.

Decline of the Daytime Serial and Rise of Premium Cable

By Bobby Chang

As the news this week relates to Friday's conclusion, after 56+ years on television, and over 72 years overall including radio, of Procter & Gamble's (The) Guiding Light (the article was originally used in the early years), one interesting discussion came up in articles that were discussing the demise of the daytime serial drama (there are only seven remaining; of the seven, the youngest is Sony's The Bold and the Beautiful, started in 1987). Some are noting the sleaze in daytime dramas has been cut in recent years because of Super Bowl XXXVIII (in fact, GL fired writers after the backlash from The Incident), while the sleaze of premium cable has risen, along with ratings and Emmy Awards wins by the premium cable outlets. It makes me wonder if the thrill of television is now with the premium cable channels that are $20 a month and offer shows with the most sleaze possible as the FCC will not touch HBO or Showtime.

It brings closer to an end the era of why a daytime serial drama was called a "soap," as in the past ten years Procter & Gamble has now lost two of the shows they had, and have been dropped to just one. The dominant production company now is Disney (3 hours), followed by Sony (2 1/2 hours), and Procter & Gamble (1).

We have sadly put "sleaze" and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences as the arbiters of what is quality television. At this rate, the MTV Video Music Awards would become "must see" television.


Oh, by the way: Cathy's comments on Rep. Wilson (who is my elected Representative) reminded me that the Pelosi/Slaugher Rules of the House prohibited Rep. Wilson from participation in the House as an elected member. Rather, as I have learned through Rep. Bachmann, he is treated as someone who must be ignored and cannot be heard. When your Congressman is not permitted to participate in the day to day operations of Congress and is relegated to just listening and not participating, what can he do? He is my elected Representative, and if I cannot have a voice in the House, what gives? Remember, on the day of the Terrorist Attacks of 2001, we had no Representative representing us. The Pelosi/Slaughter rules prohibit him from participating in the House.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Stupidity of the Gill Agenda

By Bobby Chang

The Tim Gill Agenda has just struck again in California. This time, Sony Pictures Television's The Newlywed Game 2009 (GSN, Carnie Wilson) will feature as a celebrity in a celebrity episode of the Chuck Barris classic (Sony owns the Barris library) a homosexual "married couple," as was permitted in California between May 2008 (when a court in California legalised it per request of Gavin "Any Twosom" Newsom, as referenced by radio talk show host Michael Weiner, Ph. D) and November 2008 (when it was banned by Proposition 8). What in the world have we come when this type of stupidity is allowed? It is more suitable for MTV's homosexual network than a game show.

Add that to proposals to push the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (a bill that the late Sen. Kennedy first proposed, and would likely now be called Kennedy Memorial), which would allow child molesters free reign in schools, and force churches and other organisations to hire child molesters, regardless of their hazards, or face litigation that favours the molester, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act that would force the other states to recognise the false "marriages" pushed by the Gill Agenda (and the courts) -- this repeal has been silently endorsed by the Obama Administration, and Congressional rewriting of standards that would allow homosexual "couples" to be treated as if they were married for Washington employees, we are seeing the stupidity of this agenda. The next push may be to put same-sex "couples" as "married" for purposes of taxes and the socialised medicine agenda, since it's clear that sexual deviants have diseases related to their lifestyle that cannot be punished under proposed standards. Now that they've found ways to push through judges that rewrite marriage, and bully other legislators to follow the Spanish model, the scare is we have legislators on the Left fully built on creating a new country built on their standards that violate Leviticus 20:13, I Corinthians 6:9, and other verses in the Bible. In fact, these activists would love to see this country destroyed in the way Sodom was in Genesis 19.

Here we go again with stupidity.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thug Life

By Cathy of Alex

Recent days have seen an increase in public examples of bad behavior and unwarented outbursts.

We have Rep. Joe Wilson venting his concern during the President’s address to Congress . We have Kanye West grabbing the mic from winner, Taylor Swift, during the VMA’s and sharing with everyone that, basically, he felt someone else, not Ms Swift, should’ve won what she was just awarded. Serena Williams uses profanity toward a line judge at Center Court and it costs her a possible U.S. Open. Roger Federer publicly, profanly claims , also on the tennis court, that he can speak whenever he wants to and if you don’t like it….. Even the President gets caught expressing his opinion towards Kanye West in a non-polite way.

What’s wrong with any of this?

It used to be that people were taught that when someone else is speaking you listen quietly until they are done. No interrupting. You wait for your turn to speak. I know in some cultures what I just said is crazy; in some places its common and acceptable for multiple people to talk at once and loudly. I’ll clarify by saying; in the U.S.A. , it used to be a truth, and well-taught, that when someone “has the floor” it’s their turn to speak. You have the right to shut up and wait your turn.

There is little to no respect for authority anymore. We cheer when authority gets the middle fingered salute. Apparently, even interrupting the President on national television on the floor of a Joint Legislative Session is acceptable. Once that happened, why should Kanye West feel any qualms about interrupting a performance artist on national T.V. during an awards ceremony?

Center Court in tennis (basketball gave up the ghost years ago) is one of the few sport arenas left where civility rules are about as strictly enforced as possible. You don’t talk back on Center Court. If the Ref doesn’t penalize you the crowd will with boos and hisses (Until the Ref calls them to silence too. The crowd is forced to obey, otherwise the match will not continue.). That two of the top ranked players in tennis think they are beyond that is curious but not shocking.

Even threats or actual punishment don’t seem to stop people anymore. Some of us have so much money that financial penalties are sneered at. Others have so much talent that they figure they can regain any points gain lost to a penalty without too much damage done to their careers or sports rankings.

Why do we even need punishments as deterrant? It seems to me it used to be enough to tell people “Hey, don’t do that!” and they listened. There was enough critical mass behind the request that kept people in line. Now, it seems the majority side with the thugs. The voice of civility is the lone voice in the wilderness.

Sure, people with bad manners have always been with us. The days of teachers stopping kids from passing notes in class almost seems quaint these days. Nowadays the odds of kids even carrying paper to class is slim; it’s all laptops and cells phones. Teachers spend a lot of time confiscating electronic devices and/or reminding people that taking a phone call and sending texts during class is not acceptable. I’m curious with all the time teachers spend on discipline; how much is left for actual education?

Remember how funny Spicoli ordering a pizza delivered to class was in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? It was funny because it was so audacious. Who ever heard of such a thing in the early 1980s? It was hilarious because Mr. Hand turned the tables on Spicoli and made him share the pizza with the whole class. As a result, he didn’t get any of his own pizza. Today, not only does Spicoli’s stunt seem possible but you can bet his parents would show up at the Principal’s office in outrage because their son didn’t even get to eat the pizza he paid for.

Is thuggish behavior unacceptable only when it’s perpetrated by people we don’t love or are not related to? Do people that agree with Rep. Wilson think what he did was great? Recently, Republicans were yelling about President Obama addressing school kids on the first day of school. Anyone remember the Democrats yelling when President Bush addressed schoolkids back in 1991? Who’s outraged this time?

Is the breakdown of the family to blame? Is the decline in morality to blame? Is the lack of quantifiable educational standards to blame? Is a lack of education to blame? I don’t know. Maybe some or all of the above. However, the people whose names I listed toward the beginning to this post are smart and well-educated. I respectfully disagree with former President Carter’s assertion that Rep. Wilson outburst was rascist. I don’t think race has anything to do with any of this. Incivility is an equal opportunity.

As Kanye West was already scheduled to be on Leno on Monday night and even Letitia Baldridge was quoted as saying that she hoped Beyonce yielding the floor to Taylor Swift at the VMA’s was not a publicity stunt, you have to wonder why more of us don’t act like thugs; you get such great publicity from it. Look how much mileage the contrition videos on You Tube have given these people? I wonder how well Kanye’s next album will sell? How many tickets will sell for the next Serena Williams match? If Rep. Wilson will gain or lose his seat? If President Obama’s healthcare plan will pass because he’s faced such thuggish audiences and now he may be compelled to admit, thanks to his name calling of West, he’s a Kanye West fan? Nothing sells better than public contrition and reformation.

We may not be a nation of thugs but we are definitely a nation that rewards them. If we quit rewarding them, will they quit doing it?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Opera Wednesday

By Paul Drew

What's in a name? Let's find out.

Our first piece goes by the name "Moscow Nights." Singing is the great baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, performing with Mark Elder and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the last night of the BBC Proms from a couple of years ago. Not every classically trained singer can pull off singing popular songs (witness the Three Tenors singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," which I refuse to link to as a public service to all of you out there), but Hvorostovsky more than pulls it off, which is one reason why he's one of the most exciting singers in opera. (Catch him sometime in Evgeny Onegin if you get the chance.)

"Moscow Nights" is also known as "Midnight in Moscow," and it was under this name that Kenny Ball had this huge hit. No singing, and quite a different sound, but undeniably the same piece of music.

So which do you prefer? There is no right or wrong answer. The only answer is that good music is good no matter how you play it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coming Events

By Mitchell Hadley

Here's something that might be of interest to anyone who dabbles in television, politics, or both.

In November, the Minnesota History Center presents "The 1950s Sitcom - Guide to American Life." From the brochure: "Classic 1950s sitcoms showcased new ways to 'be American,' fighting the Cold War as the laugh track played. Discover how the makers of shows like 'Life with Riley,' 'The Goldbergs,' 'The Honeymooners' and 'Father Knows Best' bowed to anti-Communist political pressures and influenced the 'Greatest Generation' as well as 21st-century ideals. With pop culture historian Melissa Williams of the University of Minnesota."

Will this be an "ideology-free" lecture, concentrating on the mechanics of 50s sitcoms? Will it turn into a conservative-bashing smirkfest? Will it be a serious discussion of the effects of television on contemporary culture and vice versa?

Only one way to find out. Tuesday, November 10 at 7pm at the Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd. in St. Paul.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Television Was Young, and So Were We

By Mitchell Hadley

Terry Teachout is always worth reading, but I feel a particular kinship with him when he reminisces about things such as classic television. We're roughly of the same era, and share a nostalgia (as opposed to a sentimentality) about the "good old days," which as we all know weren't necessarily all good.

In fact, there was a lot of dreck on television in the 50s and 60s. What makes us long for that era, I think, is the variety that was available. I don't just mean variety shows, although they certainly qualify as something from another time. And most people know that television of the 50s was dominated by police shows and westerns, so we're not necessarily talking about a "something for everyone" kind of programming.

No, I think what it is that makes us look back in envy are the sheer number of types of programs that simply don't exist anymore. Besides the aformentioned variety programs, there are shows such as NBC Opera Theater and Voice of Firestone, live dramas like Playhouse 90 and Studio One, children's shows such as Captain Kangaroo, religious programs (Bishop Sheen's Life Is Worth Living), documentaries (ABC's Saga of Western Man and NBC's Omnibus), and more. Now, not all of this was good - the recent Studio One boxed set features some very uneven quality - but ask yourself this: is mediocre live drama better than none at all? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not sure there is an answer. (Many would contend that some of today's TV movies top anything previously on television, or in movie theaters for that matter, for dramatic power and content.) The point is, we no longer seem to even try to come up with something new and different. We let the marketplace make our choices for us, without necessarily showing them what all is available.

Today, Teachout blogs about a 1977 CBS documentary, now available on YouTube, entitled When Television Was Young. Look at some of the shows included: Captain Kangaroo, CBS Reports, Douglas Edwards with the News, The Edsel Show, The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Garry Moore Show, The Goldbergs, The Honeymooners, Howdy Doody, I Love Lucy, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, The Mickey Mouse Club, Mary Martin and Noël Coward: Together With Music, Mr. I. Magination, Playhouse 90, The Red Skelton Show, See It Now, The $64,000 Question, Studio One, Suspense, Texaco Star Theater, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, You Are There, and Your Show of Shows. Really, do take some time and check this show out.

Now, a lot of you (hello, anyone out there?) probably won't recognize all of, or even any of, those shows. You might find them slow-paced, silly, naive, or hopelessly outdated. But together, they point toward the possibilities that existed in the early days of television. There was a feeling back then that anything was possible, and everything was worth trying. That's what made it the Golden Age of Television.

As the resident cultural archaeologist, I'm often hearking back to the programs of this era as a reflection of the culture which produced them. Viewed in that sense, they can indeed be eye-opening. But if you get the chance to watch some of these shows (many of which are out on DVD), try watching them for a couple of other things as well. First, as an indication of the creativity to which television aspired; and second, see if you don't find that a show such as Route 66 manages to tell a pretty good story.

The Golden Age was not all gold, nor even all glitter, but it does represent something special, when the executives who ran television thought they just might be able to come up with something more interesting than a warmed-over Jay Leno. These men once dreamt they could show live opera, quality drama, real educational programming. If they fell short, at least they gave it a try.

We often look at (for example) pornography masquerading as popular drama, and ask if TV can possibly go any further. A quick look at the past will affirm for us that yes, indeed, it can. Rather than dragging us down, it can attempt to raise us up. Isn't that even worth the effort?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ninth Circuit Stupidity: Classical Music Banned from Government School Events

By Bobby Chang

Since I picked up my songbook and began voice lessons in my mid-twenties, my appreciation of classical music has risen as the infamous Ninth Circuit, known for its wild and illogical decisions (and a role model for judges of the NWO), has put an increased crackdown of classical music.

Recently, the Ninth Circuit declared as "not violating the freedom of speech or religion of students" the prohibition of the playing of Franz Biebl's Ave Maria at a 2006 graduation in Everett, WA. A student thought it was discriminatory against her that they could not play the Franz Biebl "Ave Maria". A dissenting judge who supported the student declared "freedom of expression" was violated, and declared that this decision would "hasten the retrogression of our young into a nation of Philistines, who have little or no understanding of our civic and cultural heritage." He called sacred music part of Western classical music, and a ban on sacred music was inappropriate.

I agree with the judge. MTV and the decline of classical sacred music in schools and even our churches has led to little -- if any -- understanding of our history, which has led to the decline in appreciation of our Founding Fathers and Western Civilisation, and the rise in false teachings in education (as witnessed in the Fox News special on textbooks last week). At schools today, choirs are now performing every rock/pop/rap ditty (watch for schools to perform Michael Jackson works this school year as a tribute; we saw how bad it was when the South Carolina State-Grambling State football game in Orlando featured both marching bands play such works; HBCU games are known for their halftime battles between the institutions' show marching bands) because Bach, Mozart, Händel, Haydn, and other masterworks are now prohibited under "freedom from religion" policies. Even "gospel" songs such as Kathy Troccoli's "A Different Road" was grossly altered when performed by a government school choir. When I asked a member of the show choir who performed that work, the vocalist responded clearly that God was omitted for politically correct reasons.

Sadly, we have hastened our downfall into Philistines when "classics" in music is now a reference to bad pop/rock music instead of real music, as MTV sets the standards for what is music today, instead of Morihiko Nakahara, Jacob Will, Rosemarie Suniga, and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Considering the absurdity of the "MTV Video Music Awards," which has been the target of so many incidents in the past that with it in Radio City Music Hall, I think the doors inside Oval Office at the Park Avenue Tower (65 East 55th Street in New York City) will be open, and too many artists will be sitting inside after being caught for questionable behaviour and lyrics, where the winners will be sent to the Oval Office. And this time, we have plenty of officials armed and ready for interrogation on these no-talents whose questionable songs, lyrics, and even videos are explicit that they need to be sent to Guantanamo Bay and locked in the cells of "Gitmo".

The "Nation of Philistines" comment was overtly blunt but truthful, as the recent "Teen Choice Awards" featured a pair of artists performing with stripper poles, with both of the artists performing very popular ditties with teens. When the teens come to church on ensuing weekends, they want their churches to offer kids dancing to similar beats. These are the kids who see no problem with the sexually charged lyrics of "Poker Face," "Womaniser," "Love Sex Magic," and other popular tunes teens listen today. What type of role model would feature stripper poles and teens ogling over the music?

I've seen church teens perform to every hip-hop song as if it was a street thug. School choirs are now performing stupid pop or hip-hop Top 40 ditties because the courts ban sacred music, and churches are following with overtly secular songs (also called "Jesus Is My Boyfriend" songs). Think of all the times at church where instead of a sacred anthem, you hear the loud beat of these secularised songs allegedly sacred, but are overtly secular. This comes especially in the Oregon Catholic Press, GIA, EMI, Universal, Warner Music Group, and Kona publications, where the tunes have been called "dippy junk" by Catherine of Alexandria, and the songs are about emotions, and in church, the secularised "sacred" music has replaced the legitimate ones.

When a congregation will not stand for Händel's Messiah but instead stand for two rock tunes from hot stars, what do you expect?

What type of role model would you consider a "gospel singer" who did not wear a seat belt and was thrown to his death, while his friend was thrown and survived, when the irony of their winning of an award for Song of the Year came when one a professional motor racer who has won a Career Grand Slam handed the trophy to the surviving writer?

Seriously, if we are teaching our youth to ignore classical music, and the required thinking that is required, in favour of the feelings of modern pop-rock music, we are clearly ignoring our musical heritage in favour of the hot trends. The judge is truly correct. Banning classical music from government schools is helping push the modern rock movement that equals the left's indoctrination of children.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"There Are No Words"

By Mitchell Hadley

So spoke CNN's Aaron Brown as the second tower collapsed. Eight years later, there still aren't.

Remembering Mark Bavis

By Bobby Chang

I thought it might be a good time to recall last year's post about Mark Bavis. The ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays, the 3-time champions of AA-level hockey (the most proficient current team), still hang the #12.

On October 13, 2001, the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL formally retired the jersey of Mark Bavis, who was killed along with fellow Los Angeles Kings scout Garrett (Ace) Bailey on United Airlines Flight 175 which hit the South Tower at 0903.

Pictured at left: Rep. Henry Brown joins members of the Stingrays staff as Bavis' #12 is retired.

At right: The banner at the North Charleston Coliseum, the home ice of the Stingrays, is placed in another corner of the arena.

Originally run on September 11, 2008

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wish I'd Written That

By Mitchell Hadley

Television's perfect. You turn a few knobs, a few of those mechanical adjustments at which the higher apes are so proficient, and lean back and drain your mind of all thought. And there you are watching the bubbles in the primeval ooze. You don't have to concentrate. You don't have to react. You don't have to remember. You don't miss your brain because you don't need it. Your heart and liver and lungs continue to function normally. Apart from that, all is peace and quiet. You are in the man's nirvana. And if some poor nasty minded person comes along and say you look like a fly on a can of garbage, pay him no mind. He probably hasn't got the price of a television set.

Raymond Chandler

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Opera Wednesday

By Mitchell Hadley

Continuing TV week, let's look today at one of the most controversial programs of the 50s - The Voice of Firestone.


Indeed. In the early days of television, sponsors had great control over programming. The sponsor bought the time, therefore they were entitled to fill it as they liked. (This is one reason why so many of the shows from TV's past had the sponsor's name in the title.)

The Voice of Firestone began on radio in 1928, and transitioned to television in 1949. As the title suggests, it was sponsored by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (in fact, Mrs. Harvey Firestone composed the show's popular theme), and they were rightly proud of it. For thirty minutes each week the program featured the best in classical (and occasionally more "popular") music, with some of opera's greatest stars.

It may be hard to imagine that such a program could exist on commercial television today, but in fact it was also very hard to imagine it back in the 50s. The show was never what one would call a ratings bonanza, and by 1954 it was dragging down NBC's entire Monday night lineup, the low ratings making it increasingly difficult for NBC to sell commercial time in the following half-hour. (The show was broadcast at 8:30 ET, meaning there were still two hours of prime-time programming following it.) NBC broached the idea of moving Voice to a different timeslot, but Firestone objected - its faithful (and older) viewers might not be able to watch in another time period.

Using the Ronald Reagan "I'm paying for this microphone" philosophy (in fact, they paid $1 million annually for the timeslot), Firestone moved the program (television and radio) over to ABC, which at the time was desperate for anything resembling prestige. However, by 1959 the ratings monster had reared its ugly head once again. This time, when ABC tried to move the show to a later time, Firestone pulled the program off the air completely. There were threats of a Congressional investigation into the use of ratings to determine programming content, and letters to the editor poured in from everywhere (including, one would imagine, people who'd never been regular viewers). The show made a brief comeback in 1962, but it lasted ten months before it going off the air for good. Firestone, disillusioned with the whole process, put their advertising dollars into television sports, notably college football and the Pro Bowlers Tour.

We may chuckle at how naive things were back then - I mean, the very idea that ratings could influence programming! Times change, of course, and the same sponsors who brought us programs such as Voice were also responsible for demanding they get the most for their advertising dollar, which is often measured in terms of viewership numbers. Of course, sponsor involvement worked for good and bad back then (the quiz show scandals, for example), but I can't help thinking that something was lost when ratings became king. We talk often about "diversity" and how good it is, but when it comes to television, we still worship at the altar of the bottom line.

Enough of the words - let's take a look at an early episode of Voice of Firestone. Here, complete with the television, is Jan Peerce singing the famous "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. Howard Barlow conducts the Voice of Firestone Orchestra, in this broadcast from January 9, 1950.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Here's Deano!

By Mitchell Hadley

It's been a while since we've done anything on television, so how about an entire week of TV?

If you saw any of the Jerry Lewis Telethon this weekend, you might have noted - as we did - that celebrity talent isn't what it used to be. That's no slam against Jerry, who's doing the best he can with what's available out there. But it is interesting, isn't it, how stars like Brad and Angelina and Madonna and Babs and the rest all have time to devote to political change and foreign policy and global warming and all the rest, but don't seem to have time even for a walk-on appearance to help some sick kids.

Is that a harsh statement? Probably. And it's not meant to suggest that they're all hypocrites - after all, we can't know what's in their hearts. (Although they sure do like to publicize what they're doing, don't they?) But if you look at the list of celebrities who've appeared on the Telethon over the years, you'll see a lot of people who weren't particularly identified with the fight against muscular dystrophy but certainly had a few minutes to come on camera and show their support for a good cause. Fortunately, as this year's lineup attests, the country-western community isn't afraid to get involved.

We've chosen a long route to get to the point of this clip, but nowhere is the change in today's celebrity culture more apparent than in the death of the variety show. (You youngsters out there can Google the term to see what we're talking about.) Yes, it's true that they don't make 'em like they used to. If you've seen the infomercials for the Dean Martin Show, you'll know what we mean. Jerry's old partner had one of the great variety shows of the 60s and 70s, with some of the biggest stars around - back in the day when celebrities had what we'd refer to today as "crossover appeal." By that, I mean that they were enjoyed by many demographic groups, rather than the fragmentation we see today. And that's too bad, because we'v talked about this before - the increasing lack of shared experiences that we have in today's culture. Everyone has their own thing going for them, and there are so many specializations out there: a cable station for every genre, a radio station for any type of music, and your own iPods and DVD networks in case you don't like what you see or hear elsewhere. Is this a good thing? Somehow, I doubt it.

But - enough of this pontificating. These are all issues that are vast in their implications, and things we should tackle another day. In the meantime, I'll get off my soapbox and give you a very funny clip from Dean's show, staring the brilliant comedian Jonathan Winters. Don't you dare tell me you didn't laugh while you were watching this.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Opera Wednesday

By Paul Drew

Continuing in a similar vein from last week, we take a look today at Gaetano Donizetti's masterpiece Lucrezia Borgia, based on the play by Victor Hugo.

The real-life Lucrezia Borgia has not been served well by history, and Donizetti's opera plays into many of the myths about the real Lucrezia. However, this is Opera Wednesday, not History Wednesday, and so we'll go with the Lucrezia-poisoner version.

And what a version. This clip from the stunning finale features the great La Stupenda Joan Sutherland as Lucrezia, and Alfredo Kraus as her son, Gennaro. Now, if you like your opera full of mistaken identity and accidental death, then I guarantee you'll love this. If, on the other hand, you prefer hard-boiled realism - well, why are you in the opera house in the first place? Just sit back and enjoy two great singers in this 1980 performance from Covent Garden in London. Richard Bonynge, Sutherland's husband, is the conductor.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

By Bobby Chang

A False Marriage Ice Cream. To "celebrate" the legalisation of false matrimony in Vermont by overriding the veto of the governor, Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever unveiled an ice cream flavour themed to celebrate the false matrimony, including a homosexual "couple" "tying the knot" at an "altar". This would not have been the type of "marriage" acceptable in Our Town, and considering the Dutch has been at the front of pushing false marriage worldwide, along with left-wing activist Tim Gill, who has been a dangerous weapon for the current Left, it was no surprise that they decided to celebrate this stupidity.

Remember, this Unilever division has been pushing for false marriage legalisation, and the Obama Administration's Department of Justice wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. These Unilever people have also supported convicted murderer Wesley Cook, murderer of Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner in 1981, to gain his freedom. With his Muslim name gimmick and the "free him" chants, it seems Mr. Cook has been successful in fighting the system through emotional appeals.

Art for Agenda. The National Endowment for the Arts, supposed to support art, is now a part of the Obama Propaganda Arm. Now they're using our taxpayer money to push for "art" that pushes for the advancement of the administration's USSR-style agenda of Socialised Medicine with rationing, and other Obama Leftist Agenda ideals. In a poster shown at the link, they are using the symbols of hard rock artists to promote the agenda. This sounds eerily similar to Soviet art, and consider too this NEA has hired thugs to block townhall meetings from opponents.

Are we going to see the NEA fund “art” that promotes the Obama agenda and push for it? I wonder if that means we'll see an end to great music and great art, replaced by Praise Obama posters, similar to the art of Communism that the Herlong Goals warned we would see of inferior art, but with an agenda promoting the Left.

So no more Die Jahreszeiten, but we'll hear everything that's bland and states “Praise Obama,” and “If you're not with us, you'll be in trouble”. With a liberal supermajority destroying our own state by making us crush cars, what's next?

From the House of Payne. There are a few of us at church extremely concerned about false teachers in church. Recently, I uncovered evidence the youth minister, who has never had any training in religious studies (and is a former high school teacher), has been teaching the false teachings. He had seven DVD's in his office from one false teacher, Rob Bell, and his series was prominently promoted. In this discussion with Heather Payne, the former Metropolitan Opera Contest entrant (from the Little Rock, AR region) said, "Rob Bell is scary. He is leading a lot of people astray."

Mr. Bell is a notrious false teacher whose postmodern feeling-based, false doctrine is now popular with false teachers such as Rick Warren, whose own church has taught from this pied piper of false teaching.

Also, a church had as part of a community event recently performed the Hannah Montana "Throwdown Hoedown." Is this appropriate for a church service? It's just as logical to have this at a church service substituting for studying the Bible (there have been some churches in the area which have featured a karaoke concert featuring "gospel singers" who sign along to karaoke for services, with no study of the Bible in that service) as if St. Peters' Catholic Church had the oratorio "The True Story of Cinderella" performed at Mass (it was not; it was an event held at the church, not Mass). Mrs. Payne blasted the Hannah Montana routine being used by the church.

Social Justice in our Schools. As school years open, the advancement of creating little liberals who advance "social justice" and almost every left-wing cause is not just in school agenda, but also placed in textbooks in school. A recent Letter to the Editor I wrote to my local newspaper discussed it, but one person came down and attacked my citing of a Fox News Channel series. I warned that school books were not teaching fundamentals, but instead advancing liberal causes, as I learned in middle school textbooks that promoted leftist agenda talking points over two decades ago. That comment after my letter made me wonder what sources could I cite if I could not use Fox News. At this rate, is a government control of media there to ensure Fox News be banned from every government meeting, as legislators are now stacking “town hall” meetings with SEIU, NEA, and other union thugs, preventing opponents from speaking. This is now truly the “No Debate, No Discussion, We are the Gospel” attitude of the modern left.

My letter:

Another article showing the advancement of social justice:

The PC Police. Well, the PC Police has gone after Taiwan this summer, with the networks siding with Communist China in two sports not in the Olympics. During NBC's coverage of the USGA U. S. Women's Open, players of that country were flagged with a special Olympic flag. During ESPN's coverage of the Little League World Series, the Taioyuan, Taiwan Little League was represented on-air by the special Olympic flag, despite fans wearing the real flag of Taiwan, and waving it, ESPN refused to show it, instead, flashing the special Olympic flag and using the name Peking demands it carry. I remember in 1992, at the Winter Olympic Games, CBS used a real Taiwan flag representing the country. I don't think the Beeb would have used that flag in covering the 1985 U. S. Open.

What type of disgrace does this show as the Power of Peking continues in their attempt to reduce Taiwan to irrelevance by making it a pariah by banning its flag and anthem.

Don't Forget. It's Not Labor Day. Remember that Labor Day does not exist; as I noted last year, it was eliminated by lawsuit. Ask the people in Florence.

Booze, Bulls, Bikes, and Ice. DirecTV has decided that Versus is not worthy to be carried because of the higher per-subscriber rate the Comcast-owned channel is demanding. When big college football games featuring Mountain West Conference teams at home against major teams (Texas at Wyoming, Florida State at Brigham Young) are carried nationally live by Versus, and not on regional television (as ESPN does with most of their games, with most of the country having it on pay-per-view), and Versus has rights to events such as Le Tour de France, the Indy Racing League, the National Hockey League, and Professional Bull Riders, DirecTV decided that its 61st of 74 English-language advertiser-supported channels status does not allow it to be carried with a higher per-subscriber rate. What puzzles me is how they believe it's tolerable to carry on their system channels such as TVG (a gambling channel that offers online and telephone Off-Track Betting on horse racing), and the various MTV channels (Nickelodeon, The N, Noggin, Spike, MTV, VH1, BET, LOGO (the homosexual network with more priority than Fox News in the pecking order at the White House), and subbrands of the MTV and VH1 franchises) but not Versus, the channel that carries decent outdoorsmen shows (a genre that nearly went entirely away after MTV shut down the CBS Cable operations to create Spike).

Which is more important and worthy to be on the air? Bob Jenkins, Guillermi Marchi, Justin McBride, Cat Man Do, Hélio Castroneves, Troubador, Alberto Contador, the Mountain West Conference, FLW, Александр Овечкин, Sidney Crosby, and Code Blue, or Lauren Conrad, Stefani Germanotta, Marshall Mathers, Rap City, Rock of Love, Brooke Hogan, RuPaul's Drag Race, Metallica, Good Charlotte, and The L Word? Sadly, DirecTV thinks MTV is more important than the stars of Versus I just mentioned.

Go figure.

Wish I'd Written That

By Mitchell Hadley

If a towering giant cares so much about humanity in general, why get hung up on his carelessness with humans in particular? For Kennedy's comrades, the cost was worth it. For the rest of us, it was a high price to pay. And, for Ted himself, who knows? He buried three brothers, and as many nephews, and, as the years took their toll, it looked sometimes as if the only Kennedy son to grow old had had to grow old for all of them. Did he truly believe, as surely as Melissa Lafsky and Co. do, that his indispensability to the republic trumped all else? That Camelot – that "fleeting wisp of glory," that "one brief shining moment" – must run forever, even if "How To Handle A Woman" gets dropped from the score. The senator's actions in the hours and days after emerging from that pond tell us something ugly about Kennedy the man. That he got away with it tells us something ugly about American public life.

Mark Steyn, from last week's column. Do go and read the whole thing.
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