Monday, March 29, 2010

When the Holy City's Symphony Suspends

The announcement that a major orchestra in our state suspended operations after a concert Sunday has created a major ripple effect in the classical music community in the state. But the issue that came to my attention during Holy Week is not about taxpayers or contributions. Rather, I ask the question have churches themselves assisted in bringing down the symphonies and created an environment where the great sacred masterpieces are forbidden, and the bloviators push for the least common multiple?

When paying $200 to a major secular music publisher to pop a disc, and emphasise the mimes and dancers more than singers, is worth more to a church than having an orchestra with friends (such as South Carolina Philharmonic violinist Jennifer Hill (pictured at left at a running event after Messiah; note that we've run together at running events, seeing each other, and both entered in the aborted Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon XIII), clarinetist Stephanie Matthews, a close college friend, and Beverly Bradley, an organist), something just does not fly well. Has the attitude of MTV, creating generations that would rather have pop-rock music everywhere while leaving serious classical and chamber music on the wayside, contributed to this?

While great musicians are losing gigs, we are seeing the latest garage band become bigger, and an increase in karaoke music in both church and concert settings; there are too many popular artists who have added karaoke dates, and churches whose music leaders prefer the faking over the real deal. When government schools and college-preparatory schools that use government school material are now featuring secular pop tunes (because of massive secularism) set to karaoke (which I've seen performed at shows), it is time for parochial schools to seriously take up the baton of placing real sacred and classical music in schools, and turn away from the past 150 years of “gospel” music infused with feelings, especially with the past 20 years of rock bands over the organist and the orchestra. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Call the Law on Lewis Again!

This 2007 video of a youth dance group at a well-known dance studio (yes, the choreographer listed is Caroline Lewis, who also choreographed the adult jazz routine that I danced that year -- her ACL tear was a key exhibit in my defense against socialised medicine) came to my attention after a report came Friday morning that #2 Vodafone / Mobil 1 / Santander / Aigo McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was pulled over by Victorian authorities for what David Hoots would call "actions detrimental to street traffic" while in Melboure for the Qantas Grand Prix. Mr. Hamilton's actions are what Fox motorsport commentator Darrell Waltrip would call a John Force (for the burnouts; Mr. Force, a multiple-time drag king, is the father of Full Throttle Drag Queen Club member Ashley Hood) and a Rhys Millen-style drift on Melbourne roads, and led to his Mercedes-Benz rental car being seized.

This wasn't the first time an authority has "Called the Law" on Mr. Hamilton either on Formula One weeks. His licence was pulled three years earlier in France for driving 200 km/h. It's time to Call the Law on Hamilton. Sorry, but jiggling with your girlfriend (who can't sing in this group which shares its initials with a pop music trio consisting of Oneness Pentecostal ministers) to this song that Caroline chose should be your punishment.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Seth MacFarlane Insults the Schindlers

It has been five years since the plug was pulled, by court order, on Teresa Schindler Schiavo, at the request of her husband Michael for, as we now know, the purpose of adultery and marrying another woman (the gruesome discovery came on the day her sister came to speak at our March for Life). In the early entries of this blog, Mitchell discussed the issue and the sanctity of human life. These entries have come back to my attention in light of another Pinhead move by Seth MacFarland that I want, during the ten Sundays of NASCAR on Fox (Phoenix, Richmond, and Florence are the three Saturdays), the Sprint Cup endurance runs to have delays that force the races into floodlights where Fox has to pre-empt an episode of Family Guy in order not to show the grand stupidity of this adult cartoon that shows nary any respect for her, the Palins (as seen on a February 14 episode), or for anyone in general with dignity.

I thought of Mr. MacFarland's incident as I reflected on the "meat and three" at the Lizard's Thicket where Terri's sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, enjoyed a dinner with us from the Citizens for Life the night before the 2006 state March for Life. Suzanne sent this statement (that included commentary from her brother Bobby) about the stupidity of Mr. MacFarland's cartoon that has drawn the ire of this innocent family.

In the cartoon, the first Mrs. Schiavo was insulted and the suffering is ridiculed in an Alinsky-style manner with the theme "Terri Schiavo: The Musical," and numerous mechanical "life support" systems, and references to her as a plant, and a vegetable. To add further insult, indoctrinated schoolchildren singing about wanting to "pull the plug" to kill her. Mr. Schindler also noted, "(C)ertain people are simply not worthy of receiving medical care because they are viewed as burdens on the health care system." Does this sound like what Obamacare is doing? This cartoon also took the thug Michael Schiavo's side. What an utter insult!

Here's another letter written about it and given to

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nattering Nabobs Need Not Naysay

Back in the good old days (circa 1970, which for our purposes should be seen as a very narrow definition of "good"), Vice President Spiro Agnew unleashed one of his most famous of his many great attack lines. Written by William Safire, the line went thusly:

"In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club -- the "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."

Ah, for a time when politicians could string along stemwinding alliteration like that, instead of what passes for speechmaking nowadays.

At any rate, I'm reminded of this wonderful line as I read some of the reaction in the blogosphere to different things: the health care debate, the Church sex-abuse scandal in Ireland, the new overtime rules in the NFL - well, maybe not that last one, but you get my point. I find this pessimism exceedingly tiring, because it serves no purpose. I've read comments ranging from "we're doomed" to "the war is over and we've lost" to "I'm near tears." Doesn't matter what the issue is; this is how some people feel.

I say "some" people, because somewhere in the back of my mind I still have confidence that people know how to fight. As Tom Baker's Doctor put it in the Doctor Who episode "The Sun Makers," "Remember that you're human beings, and humans always have to fight for their freedom." True, he was talking to people living on Pluto (in an episode so old that Pluto was still a planet), but the sentiment is the same.

If you're upset about health care, I don't want to hear talk about giving up. Fight it. Even if we lose, there's no shame in going down fighting. If you're in despair about the Church, pray. There's no greater weapon than prayer. Remember that Christianity is ultimately a religion of optimism, one in which even death is not the final word. Despair is a sin, and no matter how down you might feel at a given point in time, it is crucial to not give in to it.

I think Rick Brookhiser puts it very well at NRO today, when he talks of what we don't need:

Talk of Doom. We are all doomed in the sense of Psalm 90, "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." To drag doom into politics is almost always attitudinizing, worse when something bad has actually happened, because it substitutes preening for thought. I spent a quarter of a book dealing with the doom and gloom of Henry Adams, and at least he was a genius. Get to work.

Indeed. If you think something needs to be done - and it most likely does - then you know what to do. Get to work. There's too much for all of us to do to be bothered by the nattering nabobs.

Opera Wednesday

Last spring, I noted a performance of Charpentier's Louise at Spoleto featured the setting of the title character's battle between her parents and the artisan crowd was too reminiscent of the battles of this country we were facing at the time (and still are facing). Last fall, I had the opportunity to sing a Händel work with a fellow voice student's choral group (she was a student along with me in 2003-04; we were adult students; the voice teacher noted I was a Baroque-style tenor) in singing a signature work from the legendary composer. Both themes fit with this Opera Wednesday selection.

In Händel's Scipione, "Scoglio d'immota fronte" is the signature aria of Berenice at the end of Act Two, where she compares herself to a rock and faces the raging elements with assurance. With the news everywhere about conservatives revolting against the "raging element" of an onerous government, I find it comforting to see so many Tea Party activists and like-minded people opposing this conversion to the USSR to be like Berenice, facing the raging elements of crazy activists with assurance of victory. The music and the soprano's voice both have to show how rough and tough she is, and how she can fight the elements. As I noted opera can be a metaphor to our society in the past, Berenice's voice and the instruments can symbolise this battle.

It's very unfortunate that we haven't found a video of this song in its opera setting considering I have embraced since hearing a recording of it years ago and enjoy this song, in a concert setting in Mantua's Bibena Theatre with Roberta Invernizzi as soprano, and Giulio Prandi conducting this orchestra of an opera aria that symbolises that we are indeed fighting the elements of the enemy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thinketh as The Thugocracy Beginneth

I bowled with her son at a now-defunct bowling alley known for the 1968 uprising when it was an all-white bowling alley where three died (and the nearby public university's sports arena is named in memory of the three victims) in the protests. She is a Briton who has seen the nightmares of socialised medicine on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and had an interesting perspective on the issue, and it was referenced in today's local newspaper.

The socialised medicine rationing has me reminiscent of what could have happened to a college friend. A few years ago, she learned a serious growth had grown around her spine. She needed special surgery, and her symptom needs specialists. With the "death panel" that will consist of a majority of members selected by this thugocracy of the community organiser, they will likely say "her symptom is too expensive, you must die". This is a married mother of two children, not even 30, they want to kill with the federal health policy as it will be impossible to do such surgeries and experimental treatment (unless it is with babies killed under taxpayer orders) under the new orders of this régime. She was given her surgery and is still in rehabilitation, and still unable to be at her job years later, but thanks to a wonderful free market system of thinking outside the box and doing these necessary treatments, she is closer to returning to work and able to tend to her children. What if it was your friend or family member who has a similar symptom and with the new death panel, they ask she die instead of being able to be treated?

Monday, March 22, 2010

He is Joe--He is Not Joltin' Joe, Please

Twins fans are exalting today that the hometown hero, Joe Mauer, has inked a long-term pact with the team that will keep him playing here (knock on wood, no injuries) for at least 8 more seasons. He will get a huge amount of money to do so--as in he could almost take care of that Haiti clean-up by himself--but that's another topic for another (rant) day.

I am happy for Joe, happy for the Twins, but not so happy with the Strib headline: "Relax Twins Fans, Joltin' Joe Stays." Wait a minute. We know who Joltin' Joe is/was, as in "Joltin' Joe Dimaggio" (he even had that in a song about him.) Let's not mess with the hallowed nicknames.

Famous nicknames are a wonderful part of baseball charm, as in The Great Bambino, 3 Fingers Brown, The Iron Horse, The Sultan of Swat (so good he needed at least two), Mr. October, the Say Hey Kid, even The Kid. There are a hundred others.

I resent demeaning and watering down the use of those names because the current baseball generation doesn't seem able to come up with its own. (Somebody please tell me, when was the last great baseball nickname? I may be missing some, so I really am open to suggestion here).

Until we come up with our own (St. Paul Joe? Sideburn Joe? Quiet Joe?), lay off the Hall of Fame nicknames. They got earned over many years by some incredible ball players. Such as Mr. Dimaggio. They, and their nicknames, deserve some respect. 

Words Mean Things: One Root Word

As I listened to the third hour this morning of Glenn Beck's radio show, he referenced the ruling party as the National Progressive or National Socialist Party. As Mr. Beck made the reference, I thought that Mr. Beck had referenced the modern rulers as Nazis.

Now before you go ballistic over that comment, people should understand the reference the root “Nazi” itself, as it means “National.” Such was used in venues as Italy's Autodromo Nazionale di Monza (The National Autodrome of Monza), the home of the Gran Premio Santander d'Italia. But the most infamous “stereotype” of the root “Nazi” comes from the shorthand abbreviation of the entire name of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, the National Socialist Workers Party of Germany.

In light of the move of this nation to the socialist utopia, when looking at the entire Nazi reference from a literal standpoint, this nation is truly run, as Mr. Beck would reference, by the National Socialist Workers Party of America – Nationalsozialistische Amerikaner Arbeiterpartei. It is truly “Nazi” when considering the history of words and the meanings.

Here's an interesting take from The American Spectator.

Wish I'd Written That

I'm supposed to cut back on dangling participles, and I'm not allowed to split an infinitive for at least another week."

Vin Scully, relating “doctors’ orders” after injuring himself in a fall in his bedroom last week. Scully’s fine, thank God – one of the last good things left about baseball.

United States of America, R.I.P.

With this passage of America's Affordable Health Choice Act of 2009 and the student loan "reform", the United States of America has been executed by Communists intent on imposing their agenda.

WIth the death of self-sufficience, comes slavery to the government.

The arrogance of a dictatorial régime of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, within a span of less than 50 months, has created excessive government control.

It is now time we stand for the New National Anthem of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Fight Against The Hammer and Sickle Is . . . GO!

The vision of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jack Kemp, and his Senate equivalent William Roth gave us the major tax cuts in all types of investing that lit the catalyst in the United States stock market, turning a market that had been a standard triple-digit index into a four-figure index that started a massive bull run that has created investors out of even the basic young American.

Through the past four years of Pelosi-Reid-Obama, we have seen this unholy alliance form new regulations to destroy industry (see the success in the auto industry, energy, and banking), and now the plan to impose socialised medicine. The ultimate goal is single-payer system, especially attacking hospitals run by churches for opposing new standards that would mandate abortion, rewarding deviant lifestyles and their diseases (AIDS), making certain politically favourable diseases (breast cancer, AIDS, STD's) for special treatment, and destroying new experimental treatment.

But the kicker to kill the Kemp-Roth legacy is a 3.8% tax on investment income. That, along with other tax hikes, would just destroy the investing that has taken place. First, we see the taxes on the highest incomes go to over 40%. Add state income tax (about 7%), and numerous other taxes on medicine, and then the new investment taxes, and marginal tax rates go to 25% for lower incomes, 63% for middle incomes, and 88% for upper incomes. This betrayal of the American Investor of the legacy of Jack Kemp will be complete. And there will be more penalties. Liberals will do everything to ensure those who refuse to buy an government-approved health plan (which includes special rights, baby murder, euthanasia, death panels, rewards unhealthy lifestyles) by punishing them. They could realistically make it a felony and thereby make those who oppose the plan criminals, making them ineligible for jobs, law, real estate, any elected office, and the right to vote, thereby giving liberals a right to disenfranchise opponents.

As a South Carolinian who lives in the Second Congressional District, I didn't elect Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, Al Franken, Mary Landrieu, Jim Clyburn, Ben Nelson, or any of these leftist leaders who are pushing this agenda of Communism. Yet we have become a crush car for this activism.

I do not envision singing, "All hail, O Obama Mandates For Thee, For Thee That Kills This Nation", insulting #25 from Haydn's Die Jahreszeiten (something I sang last year).

The fight is now. The red lights are coming on. Our fight against the conversion of this country into the USSR is . . . GO!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Calling the Oval Office

Bristol Motor Speedway has an odd custom that began at last year's signature Sharpie 500 (now Irwin Tools Night Race) in the modern-day Colosseum that if it was two millennia ago would be the site of combative events. In a form similar to college football or professional wrestling, the drivers are quarantined in the Turn 3 crossover gate and walk to a stage before reaching the bed of the truck to make their lap around the track. As they walk across the stage, each driver selects their own entrance music that plays as they introduce themselves. Last year, when the tradition began, Elliott Sadler had an introduction using Richard Strauss music and "professional wrestling" legend Richard Fleihr's (aka "Ric Flair") swagger. Personally, that's a song I have to stand when I hear it because it was the song that the orchestra played at my college graduation. Who needs half-dressed "grid girls" when the drivers can, for this introduction, be the anti-No Fun League, and "have at it" while choreographing their own introductions? Just imagine how Jensen Button could walk through the tunnel at Silverstone and pick any song to be introduced, what it would be.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Opera Thursday

As our regular readers will know, my tastes in contemporary opera tend toward the middle of the 20th century, and are broad in a very specific way. In other words, there are but a handful of modern composers I like (Menotti, Britten, Stravinsky), but those particular composers I really like.

The American composer Samuel Barber was best known for "Adagio for Strings," but was also a respected composer of opera - Vansessa being probably his most popular and well-received. He was respected enough that he received a commission from the Metropolitan Opera to write an opera for the opening of the new house at Lincoln Center in 1966. That composition - Antony and Cleopatra - did indeed christen the new Met, and promptly dropped out of site, never to be performed at the Met (or most anywhere else) again. A revision in the mid-70s proved somewhat more popular, in that it's at least been done more than once.

Which is why I found this article by David Patrick Stearns to be so interesting. Seems that the hottest opera ticket in Philadelphia this year is - Antony and Cleopatra. Stearns provides some fascinating insight into this famous (or infamous) opera, with some revisionist history regarding that "disasterous" Met opening (which may not have been that disasterous - it received enthusiastic applause at the premiere), and one man's opinion that A&C might be Barber's most mature work, and one of his most powerful.

That 1966 version is nowhere to be found save the Met archives (the Philly production is the 74 revision), but here is the star from that opening night, the brilliant and overpowering Leontyne Price, singing "Give Me My Robe" from Paris, 1968.

The Truth Is Out There

The Onion lets us in on what's really in that jobs bill Obama just signed:

New College Graduates To Be Cryogenically Frozen Until Job Market Improves

In a bold new measure intended to address unemployment among young professionals, lawmakers from across the political epectrum agreed on legislation Tuesday to subsitize the cryogenic freezing of recent college graduates until the job market recovers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Loonies and Government Stupidity

A Day Late and an Entire MWC Season, a few hundred Loonies, and a Real Short. The DirecTV dispute with Comcast over Versus is over, but not before the Mountain West Conference ran a season of football and basketball, the PBR World Finals and the opening third of the season, the NHL went all but the final month of the season, and exciting IRL showdowns in Motegi and Homestead, and yesterday's lid-lifter São Paulo 245.28 was shut out of satellite viewers' hands. To those with satellite television, we welcome Bob Jenkins back to the fray. (Of course, when your cable system sponsors the IRL race in Kansas, it's another thing.)

We're The Gospel. The House Budget Committee has begun work on forcing Congress to accept the Senate's version of "health care reform". The goal is to let Obama and his liberal cronies write a Communist-style system that would make no sense except to bean counters and rationers. Liberals want the Senate version, passed before the glass slipper fit for Scott Brown, to be passed without alterations as to avoid a filibuster that would come from having to redo the entire bill. But leadership now wants to ensure a dictatorship as to disarm talk radio, Fox News, and anyone who opposes them. The real lines in a song our adult jazz dance team in a nationally known dance studio ("Echa Pa'lante") did last year hold true ("Politician, now you're asking for mercy after you've plundered this nation. Our currency is devalued, corruption increases, unemployment is up, and the whole nation is polluted"). This is exactly what has happened with the Unholy Alliance of Pelosi, Reid, and Obama.

Even Catholic bishops oppose this, but they don't matter anymore. Sexual deviants have more rights than clergy. It's clear now that they want us to pay for killing children, and they would probably include the "Freedom of Choice Act" to force this down our throats.

Happy Fishing? At the Daytona 500 Experience, the winning car from the year's Great American Race is shown as a museum piece. On the trunk of the Chevrolet Impala of Jamie McMurray is the phrase "Happy Fishing," a reference to sponsor Bass Pro Shops. Now the President wants to take kids off the hook, line, and sinker, and outlaw fishing. What's next? Kiss my bass! (Professionals always practice catch and release -- it's mandatory in tournaments.)

An Education Alamo. Sandy Rios refers to the Textbook Wars in Texas. A textbook that removes all references to pre-1877 America, the Founding Fathers, and President Reagan's Greatness and promotes every facet of extreme leftism would create a new batch of leftists ready to push the Obama Agenda. I remember the books from a Pensacola college were much better in quality and taught the strong values that have been ingrained in me, and not pushed out by those inferior government school specification textbooks that have in the past 40 years been used to push every wicked agenda that hurts education. When fringe environmentalism replaces fundamentals of mathematics, what do you expect? It's time we take back our textbooks.

The Secretary Will Disavow Any Knowledge of Your Actions

The secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Peter Graves died Sunday at 83. Of course we know him for his role as Mr. Phelps in the original and the Australian "Replacement Show" revival (called such because the revival was conceived, written, and filmed Down Under as replacement programming the 1987 Writers Guild of America strike) versions of Mission: Impossible, but there were numerous films and other television series he did well for his career. Thanks to the sad state of Detroit and the demise of so many makes since the onerous regulations on the automobile industry to appease the greenies, we may have lost memory of his daughter in a commercial with him in an automobile commercial where she's doing the mystery work in an IMF-themed ad for a car that also involved children of Mel Blanc and Monty Hall. Phelps' character actually had the opportunity to work in the Australian revival with the son of one of his original agents. The agent's son is played by the real-life son of the original agent's father. Both even made an appearance together. Who was it?

OSHA Limits Not Acceptable To Church Kids. An old elementary school classmate said she was going to the church event that featured a teen puppet and dance show over the weekend, and someone decided to barge into the discussion, not knowing common sense.

Me: "You will need earplugs -- it is over 105 decibels -- loud!"

Another person: "Oh, it's not that bad."

Me: "One hundred five decibels is acceptable?"

That person: "Yes, I believe it is."

Even in seventh grade I learned there are rules and regulations to acceptable volume levels. What makes people think OSHA Rule 1910.95 should be ignored for church events? Ignore them because they're dancing to every pop tune off the radio? It's bad enough when they feel that dancing to secular music should replace studying the Bible and singing sacred songs in church-sponsored events, and even services. It's worse when they feel ignoring OSHA standards on noise should be violated for their own shows.

. Monty Hall returns to television next week as CBS will have Hall do, naturally, a deal a day on the current version of Let's Make a Deal.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Opinion Digest

Today's best opinions:

Michael Barone: How the Tea Party can help reshape the Republicans.

James Allen: Alonso wins F1 opener snoozefest.

Walter Williams: Health care is not a right - "Reaching into one's own pockets to assist his fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else's pockets to do so is despicable and deserves condemnation."

Mark Steyn: "Government health care is not about health care, it's about government."

Peter Graves, R.I.P.

Good morning, Mr. Graves.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: to embark on an acting career that will run for a half-century and win you the admiration and affection of millions of fans.

You’ll start out at the University of Minnesota, where you find that acting is the life for you. You follow your brother, James Arness, out to Hollywood, although you change your last name to avoid confusion with him. He becomes the star of Gunsmoke, while you make a name for yourself on the big screen in 50s science fiction/cold war movies. Some of them are pretty cheesy, turning up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the 80s and 90s, but one of them, It Conquered the World, is actually pretty good – better than most of the ones they show, anyway. Of course, even you’d have to admit it is more entertaining with their smart-ass commentary.

Your biggest impact will be on TV, however, and your most famous role will be that of Jim Phelps, the leader of the Impossible Missions Force on the llong-running CBS series Mission: Impossible. You won’t be there at the beginning; Steven Hill’s the boss when the series first starts. But you replace him for the start of season two, and from then on it’s you that everyone remembers when they think about the secret missions, the brilliant, impossibly complicated schemes, and the tape recorder that self-destructs in five seconds.

It’s a nice gig, good enough that you reprise the role when ABC brings back the series in the 80s. It isn’t the same, of course – sometimes you really can’t go home again – but it’s not an embarrassment either. Wisely, however, you refuse to play Phelps in the Brian DePalma/Tom Cruise big-screen version of MI when you find out that the climax reveals Phelps to be a traitor. You know, just as fans of the show know, that Jim Phelps would never betray his country. Sure, Jon Voight, who winds up playing the role in the movie, is a good actor, as well as a good patriot in real life. But he’s no Jim Phelps, and both you and everyone else knows it.

And then there’s the role of Captain Oveur in Airplane! Sure, you’re afraid it’ll ruin your career, this spoof of the upright, by-the-book professional you’ve always played, but it has just the opposite effect, becoming one of your biggest and most popular roles. Nobody who sees it will ever be able to look at a gladiator movie in quite the same way again.

Finally, there’s the voice of authority you provide on shows like Biography. When you say, “This is Peter Graves for Biography on A&E,” people know you mean it. (That line will accompany you every time one of your movies shows up on MST3K, but it's always done with affection.) Never mind that the careers of many of the people profiled on the show will fail to have longetivity of yours. It's a good series, and you bring to it the same dignity and credibility you've done with the rest of your work, throughout the years. You'll get your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and your many fans will always remember you with fondness.

This tape may self-destruct in five seconds, but your career and its memories will last much longer. Good bye, Peter, and thank you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

F1 Returns to Center Stage

After allowing the warm-up act to have the stage to themselves for a month, the grownups take the spotlight this weekend as the 60th Formula 1 World Championship gets underway with the Grand Prix of Bahrain on Sunday.

This season is jam-packed with storylines, as Bobby alluded to earlier. First and foremost, there’s the return of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher (left), regarded by some as the greatest F1 driver of all time. He’s not coming back to Ferrari, though; instead, he’s reuniting with his old boss Ross Brawn at Mercedes, which last year was called Brawn GP and won the World Constructor’s Championship.

Brawn had the World Champion driver as well, Jenson Button, but after the season, feeling disrespected, he bolted for McLaren, where he joins former champion Lewis Hamilton for an all-Brit superteam. Their main competition figures to come from Ferrari, who recruited a former world champ of their own, Fernando Alonso (who spent a brief and bitter tenure at McLaren a couple of years ago, crossing swords with Hamilton) to join Felipe Massa, the second-place driver in 2008 who’s coming back from a severe head injury sustained in a freak accident last season.

Then there’s the Red Bull team, with returning drivers Sebastian Vettel (already anointed as a future champion) and Mark Webber. Red Bull’s a popular pick to make a serious run at the title, but there are whispers that the car may not be quite as fast as the McLarens and Ferraris. And don’t count out Mercedes; they are, after all, defending champions of a sort. Nico Rosberg teams up with Schumacher, giving the German team an all-German lineup. Schumacher is said to be looking at this season as a prep for next season, when he thinks the world title is a definite possibility.

If that isn’t enough, there’s the demise of the United States F1 team without ever having fielded a car, let alone competed in a race; new rules that ban refueling during the race (meaning that pit stops will exist only for the mandatory tire change; one expert says these stops could run less than three seconds); new teams in Virgin Racing (backed by billionaire Richard Branson), Lotus (a storied name in F1), and HRT (which stands not for Hormone Replacement Therapy but Hispania Racing Team, and whose cars have not even been tested prior to this weekend’s qualifying and race); the attempt by Renault to compete after having two of their top managers thrown out of the sport because of a race-fixing scandal; a brand-new grand prix in South Korea, new points system, new aerodynamics packages, and much more. Just thinking about it is exhausting.

As you can see, we have a number of F1 blogs listed on the sidebar, with insider information on the comings and goings of the world’s most advanced (and political) racing series. After watching the minor leaguers tooling around and around their ovals the last few weeks, it’ll be nice to see some big-time racing again. (That line should raise a few hackles, I’m sure!)

This should be quite a year. And I can't wait.

St. Patrick's Weekend Thoughts

Paying for It, But Not Getting It. When I shop at the Waters boys' Piggly Wiggly, the local Walmart (the only two supermarkets that do not sell lottery tickets; this was a liberal ruse to have people spend their cash in government instead of investing in legitimate corporations or buying food for the family), or travel to Charleston to Whole Foods (I hold shares in WFMI), if I purchase 16 ounces of a product, I expect 16 ounces of a product. This is the week for college basketball tournaments, this is also the annual Block ESPN week. ESPN charges a per-subscriber rate around four dollars, and what happens (regardless of cable, satellite, or phone company) is ESPN is blocked for the entire weekend, off and on, as federal Syndicated Exclusivity laws (“Syndex”) will block ESPN. On cable systems, ESPN will be replaced by ESPNews, which is not a four-dollar channel. On satellite and phone systems, the channel will be blanked, accompanied by the note “This channel is not available in your area.” If people are paying $60 for television, and there are four days of ESPN being blocked because of Syndex, along with frequent shutdowns, why can't the cable company just cut the cable bill four dollars to reflect that ESPN is blocked too frequently during the basketball season? And don't forget too that the syndicator that blacks out ESPN owns the market's #1 television station. Television schedules you see in TV Guide don't mean anything as ACC and SEC basketball pre-empts everything.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Opera Thursday

This clip from a recital came to my attention this week. For those of you who are familiar, this is my voice teacher in a recital setting many years ago. I hope you enjoy it. When you've sung with her on Die Jahreszeiten last year, it only makes the want for more of her work there. (Editor's note -- her site hasn't been reliable in identifying songs. For that reason, I haven't identified the song, but if you can identify it, just post it.)

Merlin Olsen, R.I.P.

I remember Merlin Olsen before Father Murphy, before Little House on the Prairie, before his long stint as Dick Enberg’s partner on NBC’s football telecasts or being Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade. I even remember him before he wore a beard.

Merlin Olsen was part of the “Fearsome Foursome,” the defensive line of the Los Angeles Rams that included (quick: can you name them all?) Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier.* In the late 60s, back when the Rams depended on defense and not offense to win games (they actually won games back then – a lot of them), these four were the main reason the Rams were so successful. I was never much of a Rams fan, though, since they were usually in the same division as my two favorite teams of the time, the Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Colts.

*I admit, I couldn’t name them all – at least not at the same time. I did come up with all four of them, including Lundy, the most difficult one to name, but invariably I’d wind up leaving one of the others out. But now that I’ve made a point of it, it will probably become one of those things that I’ll still be mumbling about on my deathbed, when the doctors shake their heads and conclude that I’ve finally lost it.

The Rams came close, but they never one the big one while Olsen was with them. It was pretty much the only thing missing from a career that started when he was All-America at Utah State and ended in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with 14 All-Pro appearances in-between.

He was soft-spoken, articulate, and intelligent about football (and probably a number of other things; he graduated summa cum laude), which made him a natural for television after he retired. And that’s probably how most people remember him – as the gentle giant in all those shows I mentioned above, plus the blink-and-you-missed-it Aaron’s Way (I know; if you blinked, you missed it.) Not my kind of shows, but there’s no doubt he was good at what he did. He even sold flowers on TV for FTD, and made it seem manly. Not having known him, it’s tempting to suggest that in all of these series, Merlin Olsen simply played himself – typecasting, but in the same way that John Wayne was typecast.

If it’s true, if he was playing himself all those years, then it is less of a tribute to his acting abilities (although I’ve seen much worse) and more to his character as a man. He died today of mesothelioma at 69, but his accomplishments remain secure.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Season Review: Leverage

Leverage, which just wrapped up its bifurcated second season on TNT last month, is a pleasant, often satisfying addition to cable’s growing oeuvre of original programming. It’s true that the show’s not without its faults, some of them fairly significant, but then what show nowadays isn’t?

Leverage is equal parts Mission: Impossible and The Sting, with perhaps a bit of The A Team thrown in for good measure, and while it’s not as good as the first two and not as outrageous as the third, it’s still not bad. It stars Timothy Hutton (Nero Wolfe) as our hero, Nathan Ford, a former insurance investigator whose life (and marriage) went to hell after his young son died in the hospital for lack of a medical procedure which Hutton’s employers wouldn’t cover.

In one of those bizarre, ironic twists that television does so well, Nate becomes involved with some of the world’s premier thieves, con artists, and grafters – all former nemeses of Nate, all highly wanted criminals. This unlikely band of merry men (and women) come together, under Nate’s direction, to provide the little guy with, in Nate’s words, “leverage” against the big shots – crooked corporate executives, corrupt politicians, conniving television hucksters, or thuggish international crooks.

Each episode opens with an innocent and aggrieved party coming to Nate and his team for help after having lost their life savings, their reputation, or even the life of a loved one. The team, with the usual bank of computers, hacking devices, bugs, and other high-tech aids, develops an intricate plot to even the score – mostly through financial recompense, but with a large (and satisfying) dollop of “he had it coming to him” retribution as well. There is almost always an unforeseen complication which threatens to turn the team’s well-crafted plan on its head, but this often turns out to be a red herring, and in some cases is revealed (through flashbacks) to have been part of the plan itself. The conclusions, in which the good guys win and the bad guys lose, are almost always satisfying, and occasionally quite surprising in their unexpectedness.

Leverage has a smart, often outrageous sense of humor, and is at its best when it refuses to take itself too seriously. Many of the show’s villains are almost cartoonish in their simplicity, and if you ask yourself too many questions about the premise of each episode, you’re likely to get a headache. It’s only when you realize that everyone’s playing things with tongues slightly in cheek (ala The Avengers) that you’re apt to really get it –and what you get is usually pretty good. Usually, but not always - but we'll get to that later.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Send in the Clowns: Rick Warren Mocks The Resurrection at Easter

There's an inappropriate song (in a church setting) I heard whilst at “More Light to Haiti” (the Haiti fund-raiser at St. Peter's Catholic) last month from Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music called "Send in the Clowns". As Cathy mentioned to me in the reply, such entertainment was not suitable for the church. Now, as Easter services are being planned, Life Enhancement Centre guru Rick Warren (which Cathy with her NAPA Know How has criticised in a January commentary), he who leadeth the charge to turn churches into these entertainment venues where God's Word is not taught but entertainment matters most, announced one of the most popular teen acts from its appearances on the Disney Channel, the Jonas Brothers, will be performing at Mr. Warren's church, which will not be hosting its services in its Lake Forest, California “sanctuary,” but instead will be hosting it on the diamond at Angels Stadium in nearby Anaheim. So instead of preaching a message of the Resurrection on the day we celebrate Christ escaping the grave after the Passion, they are featuring a concert by a popular music group aimed at teens as the feature of this event.

This truly is a “Send in the Clowns” type event. One Good Friday, I remember listening to an English version of Graun's Der Tod Jedu ("The Death of Jesus") at my voice teacher's church (she was singing), and the solemnity of the Passion came to me as we walked solmenly, and silently, out of the church, and even to our cars afterwards, as the entire night showed the seriousness of the Passion. It was not the atmosphere back home where a karaoke production that had a “party” atmosphere featured a hip-hop tune that wasn't fitting with the clear classical move that was being made. It was evident that the Squirrel was serious but the inept church music leader was not. Another Resurrection Morning at another church a year later, months after I participated with that church's choir in a one-off singing excerpts from Händel's Messiah (and a week after I wanted to take my own life after falling ill hours before Cooper River Bridge Run XXX that had me thinking Menotti's The Consul!), they were singing “Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs” on Resurrection Morning – this was one of the songs Stephen Distad and crew had me singing when I did the one-off at that church months previously. In another situation, I remembered they sang “Welten singen, Dank und Ehre” from Christus am Ölberge, Op. 85 (aka Hallelujah from Mount of Olives) by Beethoven in another Resurrection Morning service. I've heard the serious messages on Manudy Thursday (including O Sacred Head, Now Wounded – sound system people, corrupted by the idea of modern rock in churches, have lost their respect of classical singers needing no amplification in a sanctuary), and have blasted “party” type songs popular with the major secular music labels attempting to control the church music market, especially when sung by karaoke replacing types such as Mrs. Rothfuss, Mrs. Bradley, or Mrs. Suniga.

Ingrid Schleuter noted Warrenism is a “man-centred” movement, and the mockery of the Resurrection by the performance of the Jonas Brothers on Easter at this stadium was “public blasphemy”. She called this group as one that exemplifies “lust, flesh, and worldliness,” quoting Romans 8:5-8. With the performance by the Jonas Brothers replacing a full day of the study of God's Word, we are seeing at the kingpin of the Life Enhancement Centres the entire definition of what these venues promote. Normally on a typical Sunday in one of these buildings, God's Word will be replaced by an oddball study of how to improve your life (henceforth the “best life now” and adult-themed storylines that have been the bane of many a commentator). Instead of studying the Resurrection on that morning, the congregation at Saddleback will attend an entertainment event at the church. Now that is not what church is intended to be. Is the person headed to church on Resurrection Morn to study God's Word at church or to attend a rock concert? When we are supposed to read the story of the Saviour arisen from the dead (which is the reason why Hallelujahs such as Beethoven's and Händel's were written, not Christmas) that gave us one of the greatest works of sacred music ever, why are we bombarded with secular messages on a Holy Day? Even certain stores close on Easter the way they close for Christmas. Yet this kingpin of the Life Enhancement Centres decides that 40,000 in a Major League Baseball stadium to watch a secular rock concert is more valuable than to listen to a Resurrection Message that is the reason for this season, along with the appropriate sacred music. However, the sacred music is only there before the message.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cablevision vs. Disney

The dispute between Disney and Cablevision over retransmission consent of WABC-TV continues, just days before the Academy Awards. But this time, I see Cablevision having a fair fight in this case.

For the past five years, there has been a move by Disney to push sporting events off the local ABC affiliates and into their premium ESPN channels, as we've seen with horse racing's Breeder's Cup, the Chase, the BCS, and golf's the Open Championship. Disney has made it clear that cable, not broadcast network television, is the way to go, and we have criticised the move to ESPN of too many events. Many ABC affiliates only carry reruns of primetime programming during weekends that CBS, NBC, and Fox affilates would carry sports, either network or syndicated. Much of this move is to increase its per-subscriber rate where an extremely high rate that is close to premium pay-television channels such as HBO or Showtime, or ESPN can put the high-rate title matches (BCS) on pay-per-view television, while stripping the local affiliates of advertising rates for sporting events, as they lose those advertising dollar revenues.

When WABC is wanting $40 million in over fees, part of the problem is that Disney has intentionally choked their affiliates by the move of more events to cable. By stripping them of advertising revenues by moving events to cable, and hurting local affiliates and reducing their ratings as they are relegated to showing reruns, infomercials, and other programming, this is a double-whammy. Disney can strip the affiliates bare while demanding more cash for a weakened affiliate, while adding more in per-subscriber fees in ESPN to create a double-whammy.

This time, with the attitude of ESPN that we have referenced on this blog, the cable provider is right here. Disney wants more money to choke WABC off and even more money to grow ESPN to pay television. Local affiliates are being sent to the back burner, and Disney wants the money to help ESPN. >

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Opera Wednesday

From 1976, here's the great Beverly Sills as Rosina, singing "Una Voce Poco Fa" from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Securlarism in Students Causes Church Trouble

The secularism that has been prevalent in our schools (and at times promotions of the New Age, occult, humanism, and others) has shown itself in many ways. Of course we've pointed out too many cases here, and a report from WTVF in Nashville came to my attention. (See also this newspaper report.)

A group of teens, according to Rutherford County (TN) authorities, lit pages of the Holy Bible to burn a church bus.

A few years ago, a few teens at church told me the Bible was not the authoritative Word of God, and it was altered numerous times '(most of them have read numerous paraphrases that have been recommended by Rick Warren, who recommends a mix and match of different paraphrases -- not translations -- to meet his agenda)' . They told me that they'd rather watch at church their peers dance to the secularised music that Mr. Proulx had mentioned in 1992. Today, the quasi-pop church music has faded away, pushed to the curb by flat-out secular music in churches, fueled by the fire of major 'music' labels. Those beliefs where God's Word is not trusted or holy creates a generation that does not want to study and instead rather 'would' have parties. Now we have seen what has come from it.

Sadly, the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Act does not declare destroying God's Word, burning Bibles, and attempting to burn a church bus as a Hate Crime, but instead preaching God's Word and offending sexual deviants by declaring their behaviour as 'wrong and sinful' is legally a Hate Crime under the act passed by the then No Debate, No Discussion, Obama Is The Gospel Congress that has leaned towards every extreme leftist organisation, 'and' signed by the President who appeases to these groups that hate God and force us into their agenda.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Richard Proulx, R.I.P.

Open any Catholic hymnal from the past 40 years or so and flip to the index in the back, and you're likely to see the name Richard Proulx, followed by line after line of citations. Proulx (prouounced “Prue” as in “see what Proulx can do for you”) was one of the most prolific composers, conductors and arrangers of the post-Vatican II period (not, we admit, what we would consider the Golden Age of Catholic hymnody), and amongst the Haugens and Haases and Joncases of the time, Proulx was a cut above. (This obituary at the New Liturgical Movement demonstrates the respect with which he was held.)

“He was a monument in the Catholic Church music field,” according to Dr. Lynn Trapp, Director of Music and Worship at St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis. Trapp had hosted Proulx in a composers workshop at St. Olaf in 2002, during which Proulx premiered a commissioned piece for orchestra and organ in honor of the church’s newly installed Lively-Fulcher organ.

Proulx had deep roots in the Twin Cities: born in St. Paul, he studied at the MacPhail School of Music and the University of Minnesota, worked with the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, and spent 15 years as music director at the Church of the Holy Childhood in St. Paul (one of the finest music programs of any parish in the Twin Cities) before moving on to Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. His archive of compositions resides in the library at St. John’s University at Collegeville, Minnesota, and it is indeed fortunate that unlike so many composers of the past, Proulx had a hand in being able to create those archives.

Proulx wrote secular music as well as sacred, including two operas, but it was his sacred music which formed the basis for his reputation. He wrote Masses (A Community Mass and Mass for the City are probably his two best-known pieces), and arranged countless hymns and carols. In fact, it is through his work as an arranger that most might be most familiar with him. “Richard understood the role of the singing assembly in Catholic liturgy and fused it with choral beauty and instrumental enhancement in his compositions,” Trapp told me. “He had great respect for the treasury of Roman Catholic Church music, and treated it as art.”

This was evident in a 1992 interview in which Proulx discussed the state of contemporary church music. In it, he acknowledged that “quasi-pop church music is a fact of life and many of us wish it were not quite so,” He went on to add that “I'm sorry to say I think we live in an age when the world-wide church is not so much in a prophetic role, as it might once have been, but rather is reflecting society and responding to popular culture. So some of those trends are inescapable in our time. Where that will lead I'm not sure but I hear many people expressing some regret about that at the same time that they're looking for contemporary literature which can still be appealing to both singers and to congregations and yet has some substance to it: music with some durability and long-range value rather than music that provides only instant gratification and is gone in a flash.”

It was perhaps that regret which Proulx attempted to address through his Cathedral Singers musical group, which he founded in 1991 and with which he released several CDs of traditional Catholic music. In those CDs, as well as through his compositions, Proulx showed that a parish didn’t need a huge ensemble of singers to create a beautiful sound.

For all the works which Richard Proulx composed over the decades, it does not appear that a Requiem Mass, the monumental commendation of the soul to God in hopes of mercy, was one of them. Therefore, for us at least, words will have to do. “He will be missed greatly by the musical world,” Trapp said in conclusion, and that’s not a bad epitaph for anyone.
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