Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Decline of Miss America and Its Ironies

I write this hours from the start of the Miss America pageant from Las Vegas, and note how the once legendary contest ("Golden Mermaid Bathing Beauty Contest") that gave us the "second prize in a beauty contest" card in Monopoly has been dropped from the annals of this country.

When the pageant was moved to cable television (originally to MTV's CMT, now Discovery's TLC) and sent across the coast to Las Vegas, it continued a push of one greedy Sin City's quest to seize America that has resulted in major events in New York, Oklahoma, Toronto, and Atlantic City that have been moved to Las Vegas. Furthermore, under the rules of this current Congress, Las Vegas is a power broker that regions such as our own state has been quashed. Seeing the pageant in Las Vegas on cable does not have justice like the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Fort Worth, TX, in November, an event which they sued NASCAR to cease the traditional Florence fall date to allow Fort Worth to have the second date. It seems odd to see Miss America in January at Las Vegas and the November Sprint Cup race at Fort Worth when Miss America should be in Atlantic City and the fall Sprint Cup race should be in Florence.

It's become a sad state of affairs when network television staples such as the finest movies, key sporting events, and scholarship pageants once known for their network television exposure become limited-coverage cable events. Now we're seeing the Chase and the BCS move to cable. We've also seen great movies drop.

This reminds me of an incident when Miss America first was held in Sin City in January. With MTV's CMT holding rights, and my knowledge of the evils of MTV (remember Howard A. (Humpy) Wheeler Jnr's nephew David Jnr is a close friend from college, and Humpy's daughter Patricia was a CBS executive at the time I held CBS shares; when MTV took over CBS, they shut down the Charlotte operations when CBS motorsports operations, based in Charlotte, was closed to help MTV start Spike), the night of Miss America was the night I attended a concert commemorating the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth (this was the concert that resulted in the Hill Rule barring instigation of a standing ovation). After church it seemed everyone was talking about the pageant. Yet here I was attending Mozart instead of watching MTV and people just swooned over what was on CMT and the leadership mocked me for my fight against MTV.

Just how sad is it when a scholarship event, which had its standards set 60 years ago by Yolanda Beetzbe's "I'm an opera singer, not a pin-up" statement has been relegated while the beauty pageant started by Catalina Swimwear in response is now more revered than the classy event even with the selfish judge who pushed that agenda to cost someone the win? For someone who prefers Brittnee Siemon over Britney Spears and Cynthia Hanna instead of Hannah Montana, what does it say about the pageants now when sex appeal is more important then beautiful talent on television? (Remember the Catalina pageant's judge who asked the question for his political agenda to legalise false marriage?)

Miss America once produced an ESPN personalities in the 1980's (1985, Sharlene Wells, who during her time at ESPN went by her married surname of Hawkes) and a current Fox News host (1989, Gretchen Carlson, Fox and Friends). The Catalina pageant now has NBC and Donald Trump as owners, and we may see some actresses, models, and others, but what do we hear? Ironically, while that pageant was long associated with The Price Is Right (host Bob Barker, 1972-2007, hosted Catalina pageants from 1967-87, and model Brandi Sherwood, who won two crowns with Catalina pageants, Miss Teen USA and Miss USA, who served as a model from 2002-2009), the game show has now associated with Miss America, as Miss America 2009 Katie Stam presented Showcases on the Drew Carey-hosted game show during her reign, and it's almost assured the new Miss America will be a guest on the game show. Now if only CBS can regain Miss America rights and have Miss America promoted on the game show in a legitimate manner, what can we say?

It's sad that Miss America, the classier pageant, is relegated to lower channels while the sleazier Catalina pageants have better exposure. Give me opera singing sopranos and great classical musicians over busty lusty models.

Friday, January 29, 2010

This Just In

Favre Reveals Viking Conspiracy, Claims "We Punk'd Them Good!"

(Green Bay, WI)-- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre revealed yesterday that his team's excruciating loss to the New Orleans Saints in last Sunday's NFL Championship game was actually part of an intricate plot hatched two years ago by a group of Green Bay Packers fans, led by none other than … Brett Favre.

"Yeah, I admit it. The whole thing was a fix, a scam, a huge prank on the Vikings and all their insufferable fans," says Favre. "Listen, I'm a Packer. I will always be a Packer. And what we just pulled off was perfect, we punk'd 'em right out of their jock straps."

Speaking in the "Suds 'n Crud Bar" in Green Bay, Favre revealed that his plan to join the Vikings and almost lead them to a Super Bowl was cooked up after he left the Packers two seasons ago.

"The plan was that I'd go to the Jets, play okay but not great, then lure the Vikings into thinking I might come out of retirement again to play for them," he said, wearing his distinctive #4 Packer jersey one more time. "They fell for it, even paid me millions, and I came back without having to go through training camp and all that crap. My drinking buddies and I came up with quite a plan."

The "plan," says Favre, involved not just coming back to play for the Vikings, but almost going all the way to the Super Bowl.

"It would have been dull to just have a mediocre season," he explains. "Going 8-8 or 9-7 or even going to just the first round of the playoffs wasn't enough. I played out the string, bringing it all down to one play that would have put those Vikings in the big game. But look what I did. It looked pretty real, didn't it?"

What did happen was that on a crucial moment in the game's final seconds, Favre threw an interception that kept the Vikings from attempting the winning field goal.

"I'll look at the films of this for the next 20 years and laugh like hell," says Favre. "See for yourself. I could have easily run for four or five yards on that third down play, even on my tired old legs. Longwell would have had an easy field goal try. Instead, just like I planned, I ran to the my right and passed back across my body to the left. Every idiot high school coach knows that's a sure-fire interception waiting to happen. Worked like a charm."

The Saints did intercept the pass, and went on to win the game in overtime with a field goal of their own.

"You gotta love it," says Favre. "Remember - did I already say this? - I'm a Green Bay Packer. Lombardi, Starr, Hornung. I hate the Vikings, I have always hated the Vikings, I will always hate the Vikings. I thought this would be a perfect way to go out, not just retiring, but screwing up their chance for a Super Bowl. I had my doubts that we could pull this whole thing off, but damn if it didn't work."

When asked about returning for another season, the 40-year-old quarterback was noncomittal. "We'll see," he said. "I haven't made up my mind about retirement. There are a couple more teams that I really hate, so you never know."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just Who Paid Conan, Anyway?

Since we haven't talked about the NBC late-nite television wars for awhile, I thought I'd throw in this little nugget, which looks at the whole thing from a different perspective. Namely, that Conan was paid off using taxpayer money. Or so says Jeffrey Jena at Big Hollywood:

NBC, National Barack Communications, and its other so-called news outlets like MSNBC, are a part of General Electric. General Electric is run by Obama loyalist and advisor Jeffrey Immelt, who until recently allowed GE to continue to do business with Iran through middlemen, as documented by Bill O’Reilly. General Electric, as part of the economic bailout, received billions in loan guarantees for its GE Capital division. So why no Obama outrage over a company that took our money and paid out huge dough to an under-performer? Why no Tim Geithner or Larry Summers demanding that salaries at GE and its subsidiaries be kept to $500,000?

I must admit, I hadn't thought of it that way. Now I almost hope MSNBC keeps Olbermann around; I'd hate to think I was paying for his buyout...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Opera Wednesday

By Paul Drew

In honor of Mozart's birthday today, let's celebrate with the great overture to Le nozze di Figaro, with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philarmoniker.

News Digest: Sowell

By Mitchell Hadley

People often ask me about the news sources we rely on - the columnists we read, the websites we browse, the books we own, and so forth.

Thomas Sowell is as good to start with as anyone. I've long admired Sowell as one of the most brilliant minds around. He's particularly good in analyzing economic issues, and there aren't many phonies he can't see through. Most of all, he understands the general humanity of today's world, and our place in it.

This week, Sowell writes about the meaning of Scott Brown's Massachusetts victory. The biggest message: that as long as we have a vote, we're not entirely powerless. Read the whole column here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beauty of a Hymn Under the Iron Curtain

By Bobby Chang

A friend of mine from college has been to Eastern Europe (Magyar) before returning recently back to Charleston. A former voice teacher said my voice had a Baroque quality, which has fitted me well with my love of classical and sacred music, having sung Händel, Franck, Scarlatti, Haydn, and others in recital or choral settings, drawing the ire of the "head" clergyman at church and his attitude against anything that isn't what Cathy calls "dippy junk".

A quarter century ago, the godless atheist Iron Curtain was extremely strict, and in our A Beka curriculum, we were taught the evils of the USSR, something that government-school curriculum (something I later was pushed) never did (in fact, they praised the values of the USSR). Imagine the thought of the legacy of Ronald Reagan breaking away the Iron Curtain and consider a clergyman was sentenced to fourteen years of prison under the Nicolae Ceauşescu reign of Romania when you find this Lois and Daniel Prunaru performance at the Romanian National Opera of a sacred hymn standard from Oliver Holden. Not only is this hymn strong in doctrine and theology, the singing is extremely beautiful!

Just think now that we're having leftists try to throw God off the public square, and we have schools and churches outlaw sacred song from venues, and see what is happening in the former Iron Curtain where such a wonderful arrangement of this hymn, and you ask yourself if you can accept the dippy junk of today when you compare it to this sacred song. There's a difference between singing with a karaoke machine (or a rock band) in ragged clothes, and singing with an orchestra (or organist) in black tie. Give me black tie.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Everything in Moderation

By Cathy of Alex

Recently, I was in an online chat room with a couple of friends. For one of my friends, it was her first time in an online chat room. The chat room had about 16 people.

Later, via Google chat, the “newbie” asked if her experience in the chat room was typical. “Are people always “chatting” (typing) over one another?” “Are there always multiple conversations (threads) at once?”

I answered: “Yes” to both questions.

Online conversations have a potential for the same lacks of etiquette we may experience in any good “old fashioned” verbal conversation with a group: interruptions, rudeness, erroneous assumptions, lack of listening.

I don’t know if its that people are ruder online than they are in person, but I think the anonymity of much online dialogue gives people a greater license to act uncharitably towards others. We have aliases, we are in different states, different countries, we’ve never met in person, and unless we have a webcam, we don’t get the verbal clues that are sometimes necessary to understanding the position of the speaker.

In online world of blogs and chat, I’ve noticed that people don’t always address the question or comment on the post. It’s almost that they don’t read the post. Maybe they didn’t. It seems that people just want to “hear” themselves speak and air an opinion-even if it has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Are people lonely? Maybe. But, there is a new freedom along with the new community provided to us by life online.

Modern office life requires a lot of online NetMeetings or WebEx meetings; more workers telecommute. Online meetings are organized and I’ve never been in one that involved people talking over each other, or interrupting rudely, or failing to answer the question. Yet, these lapses of etiquette often happen online among strangers.

Perhaps the answer is moderation. Office online meetings are moderated. Even if they weren’t, there’s the powerful necessity of saving ones career that forces manners in situations where you may feel like breaking free of etiquette if you could.

Some chat forums are moderated too, but moderation may not be enforced.

In any case, moderation is what is needed; it’s what we all need. We need moderation in ourselves even if there is no external moderator. As a Christian, I accept that I have the moderator that is God. Unfortunately, it seems that at many online forums, CHRISTIAN forums at that, people forget that God is, and should be, the moderator even when there is no human in the moderator role present.

Degrading Music

By Bobby Chang

The degradation of music showed its colours earlier this month when Total Nonstop Action Wrestling had "Ric Flair" introduced during the a January episode (January 14 I believe) of "TNA Impact!" at NBC Universal Studios Florida, where the "professional wrestling sanctioning body" played what they said was the entrance music of the 60-year old Charlotte businessman. Knowing MTV holds rights to broadcast TNA Impact!, and the World Wrestling Entertainment's copyrights of their own entrance music, most wrestlers need new gimmicks, ring names, and music, although this is different because because none of Flair's was trademarked when he started in the 1970's, and his ring music ("Einleitung") is in the public domain.

When I graduated from college, the orchestra at the Frank McGuire Arena serenaded us with "Einleitung" from Also sprach Zarathustra, as has been the case for football teams since 1983 and for all sports teams in modern times. Hearing the full formal version of it has become a de facto standard, and while I've heard a "pep band" play a variant that doesn't sound proper during sporting events, it's one issue. When I hear the formal version of the song, I have learned to stand at attention, something that I learned during college and have picked up that cue for that song -- one of two non-National/Formal Anthem pieces that I have learned to stand at attention when they are played (HWV 56, No. 44, is the other).

However, knowing the degrading of MTV (the last MTV show I watched was the Long Beach round of the 2004 Champ Car season where MTV's Spike had broadcast rights for that season, the ridiculous programming that Bob Jenkins bolted MTV after just two shows; the last MTV-produced show I watched was the 2001 Dale Earnhardt Snr tribute hosted by Eli Gold, a remant of the former CBS and Ed Gaylord (yes, the family whose name is on the stadium for Oklahoma) TNN using their old film) and the degrading of music in general ran extremely course when Total Nonstop Action Wrestling had Ric Flair enter the Hexagon (as it was at the time) for his first appearance with the organisation.

How can you accept electric guitars playing for this piece? Sadly, in a rock-oriented society without respect for classical music, we've gone to this by allowing fundamental pieces in rock to be accepted? I don't believe so.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

South Carolina Right to Life Update

By Bobby Chang

I had the opportunity January 16 to march for my 13th time for the South Carolina Citizens for Life March and Rally, and unfortunately, we had a major incident take place. Near the end of the rally with Damon Owens of Joy-Filled Marriage speaking, a woman fell and was rushed to the ambulance, ending the rally at the State House. I received a statement about the woman and would like to share it.

Obviously, I didn't want to release anything about the march this year out of respect to her.


The lady who was injured at the Stand Up for Life Rally Saturday is recovering at her home in Bluffton (in Beaufort County Mainland before heading to Hilton Head). She is Ann Higgins, a member of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church. Mrs. Higgins was attending the Stand Up for Life March and Rally in Columbia, S.C. Toward the end of the rally she was accidentally knocked down a number of stone steps at the State House.

A nearby group of Nurses for Life who had marched together earlier in the day, and a physician rushed to assist Mrs. Higgins until the ambulance arrived within 10 minutes. The rally speaker, Damon Owens, led 2,000 or more rally attendees in prayer for Mrs. Higgins.

On Monday Mrs. Higgins said she wished to thank all those who have prayed for her. “The hand of God was in this,” she said. “I didn’t have worse injuries. I didn’t receive injuries that are life threatening.” Mrs. Higgins said she received stitches for a scalp injury, but was not admitted to the hospital.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Riot of Spring

By Mitchell Hadley

Tonight (Friday) we'll be taking in a performance of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps), one of the greatest of all modern classical works, as part of an all-Stravinsky joint concert by the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Stravinsky's score, along with Nijinsky's choreography was nothing short of a scandal when it premiered in Paris in May of 1913. As you can see from the recreation in this BBC2 docudrama from the 1990s, the reception was - well, let's just say that here's hoping we don't see a repeat tonight!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Opera Thursday

By Paul Drew

Fidelio, Beethoven's only opera, is generally considered a testiment to freedom. It tells the story of Leonore, a woman who disguises herself as a prison guard named "Fidelio" in order to rescue her husband from death in a political prison.

Beethoven struggled with this opera, including writing four different overtures to it before settling into a final version. It's a challenging opera, but seldom fails to stir. And since Leonore successfully frees her husband, it stands as an opera rareity: a drama with a happy ending!

In this clip, the great Christa Ludwig sings of the need to always retain hope - although she is close to despair, thoughts of her husband Florestan keep her going. Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin? ... Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern ["Scum! Where are you going? ... Come, hope, let the last star"]).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The 180-Minute Warning

By Mitchell Hadley

An interesting article by David Biderman in the Wall Street Journal last Friday regarding the amount of action in the average professional football telecast. According to Biderman's research, there is an average of 10 minutes and 43 seconds of action during a three-hour broadcast. Less than eleven minutes, out of 180. Lest you get too up in arms about that, though, Biderman reports the following:

In November 1912, Indiana University's C.P. Hutchins, the school's director of physical training, observed a game, stopwatch in hand, between two independent teams. He counted 13 minutes, 16 seconds of play. During last week's Wild Card games, Mr. Crippen, the football researcher, dissected the broadcasts and found about 13 minutes, 30 seconds of action.

Well, that's a relief.

So the amount of action in a football game has changed by less than three minutes in the course of almost one hundred years. But if games seem to be taking longer to play than they used to, there's a good reason why.

Back in the day (actually, up until the the very early 1970s), NFL games had a uniform starting time of 1 p.m. local time (except in Baltimore, where the Blue Laws prevented games from kicking off prior to 2:00.) That meant games in the Midwest (Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas) started an hour after those on the East Coast; thus, the second game of the doubleheader (if there was one; they were fairly rare until the late 60s) would be joined in progress.

That wasn't such a big deal back when I was growing up in the 60s, though, since it wasn't unusual to see games come in at around 2½ hours, meaning you'd only miss part of the first quarter of that second game. And when the game did run over three hours – the Heidi Bowl, for example – it was usually due to penalities, incomplete passes, and the like. Since games often ended before 7, networks had highlight shows (the Sperry-Rand Scoreboard show on NBC, for example) in case they needed to fill the time.

Contrast that to today’s television schedule, where the early games begin at 1:00 Eastern time (noon if you’re in the Central time zone), and are scheduled to fit into a 3¼ hour time spot. If there's a doubleheader, the second game doesn’t start until 4:15, and the whole telecast (including the post-game show) won’t wrap up until 7:30. Unless, of course, there's overtime.

So if the amount of action in the average game hasn’t changed that much, then what gives? Well, for starters, there's about an hour's worth of commercials included in each broadcast. Think of that - one hour, 60 minutes. Figure that each commercial is 30 seconds; that makes 120 commercials. If some of them are 15 second spots, that makes for even more. True, many of these take place during natural stoppages in the game, but the commercials serve to make those stoppages longer than they otherwise would have been. And then there's the insidious "TV timeout," which creates a pause (after a kickoff or turnover, for example) that not only isn't natural, it can (and often does) disrupt the flow of the game. (Touchdown, extra point, commercial, kickoff, commercial. Yeah, that's a real good flow.) But as we know, as long as the game (and the networks) depends on spornsorship money, it isn't going to change any time soon.

What about the rest of the time, you ask? Well, there's the seemingly endless replay of the previous play: 17 minutes are devoted to that alone. The instant replay didn't come into usage until the early 60s, and even then it was used primarily to show an extraordinary play, to allow people to have another look at it. There might have been some analysis included, but nothing like the dissecting that goes on now, where you might see the play from a dozen different angles: overhead, reverse angle, sideline, every which way. ESPN was the worst offender here (41% more on average than the other three networks), to no one's surprise.

You get 75 minutes of players just standing around, which is to be expected since the average play only takes up about four seconds. Shots of the head coaches and referees take up about 13 minutes. The halftime show runs 15 or 20 minutes. (Cheerleaders, incidentally, only take up about three seconds per game.) As Biderman notes, the ratio of inaction to action is about 10 to 1.

Apparently all this hasn't driven viewers away; a lot of people watch the Super Bowl more for the commercials than the game itself. I haven't watched the Super Bowl in probably ten years, so I wouldn't know.

In fact, all this has really helped to drive me away from watching football on TV. I'll watch the odd college game, and I remain a dedicated fan of the faster-paced Canadian version, but the NFL leaves me cold. TV isn't all to blame; between the politically correct owners, the hoodlum players, the semi-pornographic commercials, the drunken fans, and the fawning announcers, there's plenty of reason to find something else to watch.

So when you're watching the NFC and AFC championship games on Sunday, or if you're paying in excess of $1,000 for tickets to the Super Bowl, you've obviously made a value-based decision that your time and money are well spent. So there's no use arguing about it, or trying to convince yourself otherwise. It is what it is.

It just seems to me you're left with too much of what you don't want, and not enough of what you do.

Verdi at the Farmers Market

By Bobby Chang

My voice teacher sent me this I wanted to share with you. One November afternoon in Valencia (Spain), the home of the America's Cup and the Telefonica Grand Prix of Europe, opera singers masqueraded as shopkeepers sold produce at what we'd call the Farmers Market. Once Verdi's Il Travatore began playing on the public address system, someone burt into song, and those shopping for great fruits and vegetables did not know what happened -- but everyone enjoyed it!

Friday, January 15, 2010

This Just In

By Steve Harris

Obama Appoints Carter as Late-Night TV Peace Envoy

(WASHINGTON, January 14) -- President Obama today appointed former president Jimmy Carter as his personal envoy in an attempt to broker a peace treaty ending the late-night talk show wars.

Carter, known in recent years for his globe-trotting diplomacy to various world hotspots, will act as mediator in three-way talks between former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, current Tonight host Conan O’Brien, and NBC president Jeff Zucker.

The war broke out late last week after news reports that NBC was considering a forcible repatriation of Leno to his original 11:35 p.m. (ET) time slot, turning O’Brien and fellow NBC late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Carson Daly into television refugees who might be forced into timespots 30 minutes later, or even emigrate across the border to other networks. Calling it an unprovoked act of aggression, O’Brien spurned NBC’s demands, resulting in the current crisis.

Addressing the press from the White House briefing room, the two men emphasized the need for peace during these trying times.

“During these crucial times, it is important now more than ever that Americans not lose their access to affordable comedy,” Obama said. “We must allow our comedians to continue in the time-honored and constitutionally-protected tradition of making fun of celebrities, dignitaries and world leaders. Provided, that is, they don’t include me.”

The destabilization of the late-night time slot could wind up confusing and discouraging Americans, Obama continued, leading to insomnia, a decreased sense of humor, and lower advertising revenues. “This is nothing less than a direct threat to our economic recovery,” the president concluded, adding that he would not rule out a late-night stimulus program if attempts at peace failed.

Carter told reporters negotiations would begin shortly, and that Obama had "graciously" offered the use of Camp David as location for the talks. Asked about his first step, Carter replied that he hoped to help the parties reach agreement on the size and shape of the negotiating table. “Mr. Leno wants a rectangular table with him sitting at the head, befitting his role as King of Late Night. Mr. O’Brien indicated he would prefer a square table, which he said would be symbolic of Mr. Leno’s unhipness. Mr. Zucker at first suggested that the table should be in the shape of a triangle, but later admitted that he had no real suggestions to offer. I think a circle would be most appropriate myself, to show that we are all equal children in the eyes of God, but the final decision is one that each man will have to come to terms with inside his own heart.” He added that once a treaty had been signed, he would ask for UN observers to monitor Nielsen overnight ratings in an effort to ensure fairness and compliance in the future.

In conclusion, "I'm very confident," Carter assured the assembled crowd. "If I could bring peace between Egypt and Israel, can Leno and O’Brien be that far behind?"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Here We Go Again

By Bobby Chang

We here at this site have had a long-stammering feud with the arrogance of ESPN that it has been mentioned in our inaugural Enemies List directly (see the sidebar) or indirectly by four of us. ESPN's move to nearly premium subscription-based cable (similar to HBO or Showtime) through its per-subscriber rates (and the recent Fox-TWC battle that they put part of the blame on ESPN's arrogance) has become a major issue that I strongly believe that "the next move" will be pay-per-view operations. There has also been the case of the sporting events given a Heidi Game treatment by ESPN to protect the one television programme I have noted has been Disney's "franchise" tag, Desperate Housewives, and the glorification of competitive eating.

The arrogance of moving the entire BCS to cable with the likelihood of pay-per-view for the title game was one issue, but I expect an attempt to gain the 2014/16 Olympic package to ESPN (and pay-per-view) is likely, as will college basketball's NCAA Men's Tournament (the CBS package is set to expire soon) coming. Now, ABC affiliates who signed advertisers for the NASCAR playoff package are probably extremely outraged by the arrogance of ESPN again.

When NASCAR signed a network television-dominated package in 2001, sponsors knew the value of a dollar on network television is more valuable than a dollar on cable. That led to an increase in sponsors that understood what the power of the network dollar meant in sponsors such as United Parcel Service, Federal Express, Sprint Nextel, Office Depot, Target, Aflac, Red Bull, and Subway started to pour their cash into saloon cars, knowing the market was strong and network television means more than cable. But with the announcement this week that ESPN was taking away from what the local affiliates to push on their cable networks by moving all nine Sunday Chase events to the cable network and giving their ESPN Broadcast Network affiliates just scraps (the three events on Saturday night, including the prestigious Irwin Tools Night Race and the last event of the regular season), the sponsors and affiliates have been mistreated again.

Local advertisers who had signed long-term contracts with their local ESPN Broadcast Network affiliate for the duration of the television package have all of a sudden found midway through the deal, ESPN has decided they want the ball and don't want the broadcast networks to have any of it. It seems once again, the arrogance of ESPN has showed again, and they would want to protect Desperate Housewives at the expense of everyone else again! To top it off, during the playoffs, the pre-game shows will air on ESPN2 before moving the main event to ESPN. And it seems the "franchise tag" strikes again. Now ESPN cannot move their five Broadcast Network races on the Indy Racing League's Izod IndyCar Series to cable because of the IRL's television contract, so they've virtually decided the five IRL races on network television, all on Sundays, deserve more respect than the NASCAR playoffs, or even the saloons at Indy (which is on the same time as ESPN's own X Games).

And here in South Carolina, our ESPN Broadcast Network affiliate has said the Southeastern Conference Men's Basketball Tournament, where the weekend matches are set for the ESPN Broadcast Network, will not be televised. Instead, they will air syndicated programming (the ACC tournament), leaving the SEC out cold in an SEC market.

The NBA is next, and what's fearful is the per-subscriber rate will rise to the HBO or Showtime levels. That is coming. Just how much more arrogant can ESPN be at their own affiliates by deciding to shut affiliates out and move everything in an attempt to go pay-television?

The NBC Follies

By Mitchell Hadley

Well, NBC certainly finds itself in a pickle of its own making, doesn't it? And it's probably safe to say that it's now worse than a fiasco or a debacle - it's a joke:

I suppose there's an element of sour grapes to all this; Letterman has no love for either Leno or NBC, and Kimmel's been always trailed Leno's Tonight Show in the ratings. As for the two NBC hosts, my recollection is that Leno was "forced" off Tonight in the first place because NBC feared they'd lose O'Brien to a competitor network. In turn, NBC gave Leno the prime-time slot for the same reason - fear that someone else would pick him up. So neither of them are the complete innocents they might at first glance appear to be.

Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine that NBC could have handled this any worse than they did. As everyone from politicians to sports stars will tell you, you should never let something leak out before you're sure how it's going to end. NBC's first mistake was in allowing the news of a possible time shift to come out, leading to immense speculation - all of it harmful to the network. Compounding that, they then go public on their restructuring plans before they've secured the cooperation of all parties involved. One could argue that after the original story broke they had no option but to bring it out in the open, in an attempt to get on top of the story. Be that as it may, they handled it so badly you'd think the network was being run by the people in the Obama White House. (Considering that MSNBC is virtually an arm of the Democratic Party, you do have to wonder...)

Anyway, it will be quite interesting to see how this pans out. Will Conan make the leap to Fox, as most people seem to expect? Will Leno return triumphantly to Tonight, or will viewers see him as a blade man in the backstabbing of O'Brien? Will any of them be able to catch Letterman, or does Dave's biggest problem come from himself and his wandering eye? (Note to pro-am golf tournament directors: pairing Letterman and Tiger Woods may not be a good idea. Then again, if it's a tournament on NBC...) Speaking of NBC, will programming honcho Jeff Zucker be able to hang on to his job after having steered the Peacock Network straight into a Titanic-sized iceberg?

For the answers to these and many other questions, be sure to tune in tomorrow for another episode of "As the Late Night Talk Shows Turn." Right now, it's the best soap opera around.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Telly What?

By Bobby Chang

The reports on the Idols series probably going away in the US after 2011 is virtually guaranteed, as Simon Cowell and Radio Television Luxembourg have agreed to sell Fox the popular The X Factor franchise Stateside then.

But what came off the UK Game Shows site for the next crazy game show concept had me amused. ITV, the network that gave us Millionaire, Idols, and The X Factor, now has a concept named "From Popstar to Operastar". The idea is eight pop stars will be tutored by Katherine Jenkins and Rolando Villazón in performing opera arias in front of judges and a studio audience. The public will vote to eliminate a singer, and the last man standing wins the contest. An Osmond (Jimmy) is in this contest. Wasn't Rolando Villazón the tenor who sang the Metropolitan Opera's production of of Lucia di Lammermoor with one of this blog's soprano that we often discuss, Анна Нетребко?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wish I'd Written That

By Paul Drew

Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid."

John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima, written by Harry Brown and James Edward Grant

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wish I'd Written That

By Mitchell Hadley

You can renounce war, but that does not stop your neighbor from building up the biggest army in the world and coming in and killing you. It’s much like the thinking about gun control. You can say, 'Well, listen, I don’t think people should have guns.' Hey, I wish people didn’t have guns, but the fact is that passing a law does not stop people from having guns. It just makes you defenseless. Take Britain – the burglary rate is far higher there than in the United States, and British burglars do not case the place before they go in. . . . In Britain [gun control] has made burglary a safe occupation. It’s like OSHA for burglars!"

Thomas Sowell (Courtesy NRO)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This Town Ain't Big Enough For All of Us to Coexist

By Mitchell Hadley

You may recall that some time ago I gleefully mocked the implicit idiocy in the bumper sticker motto "Well-behaved women rarely make history."

I admit that I find that greatly irritating, but others might choose the ubiquitious "Coexist." (Is that a motto or an admonishment? I'm not sure.) I've thought about taking that one on as well, but one of the more sublime truths in life is that if you wait long enough, someone else - in this case, Wiser Time - will do it for you. And much better than I could, in fact. (H/T Jonah at NRO.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dress Codes in Concert, Please

By Bobby Chang

In light of last month’s performance of Händel’s Messiah where I sang a one-off with a friend’s church choir (since our church is woefully inept at the hands of arrogant “ministers” who prefer a no-talent pop star headed to the Oval Office instead of The Brittnee), something that I noticed in the “formal” church concert came to my attention in light of a release from the local orchestra.

The leader of the choir simply stated “tuxedoes for men, black for women,” and some of the outfits chosen by the women were outright inappropriate. While our esteemed leader and organist were properly attired, it seemed “choral dress” for women has degraded. Some of today’s women think sloppy is appropriate for choral singing and orchestras. While some wore black dresses and the jacket and slacks look (which is something that a female member in certain instruments will find much easier to wear than a dress), we had a few cases where they thought a black three-quarter sleeve top and black jeans were suitable for such formal events when the men were in dinner jackets looking as if they were Ian Fleming’s secret agent. Has feminising of today’s classical music allowed the tackiness of women in concert halls where it’s appropriate to be Henry Ford, and wear anything, provided it’s black, even if it’s a black sweatshirt, black jeans, and sneakers, something that I find inappropriate when the dinner jacket is worn? The local choral society has the women in identical dresses. And of course, I don’t think I’ve seen in a formal singing situation my teacher in anything tacky.

If the idea of singers in such casual (and tacky) clothing is bad enough, today’s churches feel that it’s suitable for “modern worship praise teams” to be badly dressed, as it has happened in too many churches. But that’s not the issue in question.

The South Carolina Philharmonic announced that a January concert of Ludwig von Beethoven pieces will be a “Beethoven and Blue Jeans” casual Masterworks concert. Why do these symphonies organise concerts with such tacky dress codes when you actively wear suits when attending and dinner jackets when performing? This type of concert just does not make any sense to those who are familiar with formal dress at events.

How many of you have orchestras that have “casual clothing accepted” concerts? It is extremely tacky and something I would never wear for such concerts. Why is the orchestra stopping that low to draw people with this cheesy dress code? Near the end of the previous decade, Kathy Troccoli presented an award for the GMA Dove Awards at the Sommet Center in a cheesy tapestry-pattern jacket and black slacks presenting next to a dinner jacket-clad Darrell Waltrip, looking like he was at the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria to take home a nice trophy. The triple Sprint Cup Champion was one of the few “black tie” presenters in a show where the host, one choral group, and a few others were in dinner jackets, while the younger artists chose to be tacky. Now, at the same awards show as we are twelve months from the end of another decade, the dress of the awards show presenters had dropped to just casual clothing at an event 30 years ago would have been called a formal awards show. There were few, if any, dinner jackets.

I wonder why an orchestra would try a “blue jeans allowed” concert when I noted the tackiness of a concert where female members of the choir thought anything casual was permitted when black tie should be the rule.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Year We Make Contact

By Bobby Chang

Two thousand ten is the year we make contact, as it was said in a movie, and on this year, we make contact to remember that we are still in a fight with Islamoterror. With all allegations against my Senator DeMint on blocking a Transportation Security Administration official because of his wishes to unionise, it should be reminded that liberals mandated total control of security workers when they controlled the Senate in 2001 after the terrorist attacks, for the intent of being able to entirely unionise the workers when possible.

The big scare is if workers are unionised, and union labour regulations as imposed by liberals come into play, could we see an entire shutdown of airports when workers go on strike and with a replacement worker ban imposed by the next liberal labour policy, result in an inability for the TSA to do anything. This is exactly the concern I had eight years ago with government policy supporting stupidity in a labour supporting policy that punishes everyone else.
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