Monday, May 31, 2010

Opinion Digest

The news you need to read...

Mark Steyn: Memorial Day reflections on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

James Allen: Hamilton wins wild GP of Turkey; Red Bull self-destructs before our very eyes.

Charles Krauthammer: There's more than enough blame to go around in the Gulf oil disaster - and you might be surprised by some of them.

Thomas Sowell: Don't let scapegoating distract us from real problems.

Dennis Hopper, R.I.P.  The two things I remember most about Dennis Hopper are that he was a vocal supporter of Ronald Reagan, and that he couldn't believe he'd gotten an Oscar nomination for Hoosiers rather than Blue Velvet:   "Hoosiers?  I got it for Hoosiers?"  Oh yeah, he also made some movie called Easy Rider.  There's a temptation to think that perhaps that's more than Dennis Hopper himself remembers about his life (it's sure more than he remembers about his turn in Apocalypse Now), but his life truly was quite a time.  Joe Neumeier offers some thoughts on Hopper's legacy

Thoughts on Retro TV Week

Showing my (relatively) young age reminded me of the death of Gary Coleman (Arnold Jackson of "Diff'rent Strokes," 1978-86) at 42 and the tragedy of the young stars of that show; the other adopted brother, Todd Bridges (Willis Jackson), has faced criminal charges but is the last surviving member left. Dana Plato (Kimberly Drummond, daughter of their guardian Phillip) died of a drug overdose in 1999, and her son committed suicide earlier this month. It seems the only "safe" star was the guardian of the boys, Phillip Drummond, Conrad Bain, now a widow after his wife of 54 years died last year.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

On to serious matters

Godfrey's Legacy. The run of modern television talent shows such as the Radio Television Luxembourg Idols and Got Talent franchises, along with the Dick Clark Productions' So You Think You Can Dance franchise reminds me that talent shows have been on the air for a long time. Lipton Presents Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (1948-58 on television) was one of the first well-known talent shows, and I could not believe the number of stars who made it from either radio or television. America saw the genre of a popular form of "gospel" music in Tennessee (known now as "Southern Gospel") in its purest form with the four-part harmonies and a pianist through the Blackwood Brothers Quartet, then consisting of James Blackwood (lead), his nephew R. W. Blackwood (baritone), Bill Lyles (bass), Bill Shaw (tenor), and Jackie Marshall (piano), won the June 14, 1954 episode of Talent Scouts.

Two weeks later, tragedy struck as an aircraft piloted by R. W. Blackwood with Lyles, and a promoter's son, crashed. All three died. The group soldiered through the crisis until it ended at the turn of the century, but was reformed by James Blackwood's sons.

More Gill Agenda. President Obama is bullying his Department of Defense to impose rules that favour people who suffer from a psychiatric disorder at the expense of opponents of his anti-family agenda. Why in the world are we changing our military from a toughman to a weak-kneed social engineering order to appease the Tim Gill agenda? Why does this Congress think it's more important to appease making this military a social engineering project to destroy morale? Using the military to force the Gill Agenda down our throats is a way to show who has the power, and sadly, we are violating Leviticus 18:22, Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Destroying our military to appease a tiny minority of loud sexual deviants is senseless. Making God's Word a federal crime (as in Shepard-Byrd) is more outrageous. Are we headed to employment standards based on them?

Carburetion Day. Friday was Carburetion Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and in this decade, we've seen the track change the day from Thursday to Friday as history was made with Briton Pippa Mann the first woman to win a pole in the 101 years of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as she scored pole for the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race. The Freedom 100, started in 2003, has moved from second-week qualifying to Carburetion Day, making the final practice at Indy a full day of activity, with the 40-lap Indy Lights race, final Indy 500 practice, and the Pit Stop Competition. Can Mann make history over 40 laps, 120 turns at the Brickyard Friday?

Pit Stop Contests. With Friday's Indy 500 Pit Stop contest, the issue could unfortunately be how it's the last "pure" pit stop contest left, with NASCAR's pit contest, originally held in a late-season race at Rockingham, discontinued after that race was discontinued after the 2003 season, and replaced in 2005 by the current contest at Time Warner Cable Arena. The current NASCAR contest splits the crew, where one jacks the car on both sides before running to the head of the arena, the front and rear tire changers do a full change on each side before reaching their car, and a fueler and catch-can man to dump two cans of water into a simulated fuel tank (for purposes of competition, it's water) before approaching their car for the trademark 40-yard push across the other end of the arena for the finish. The drivers are most often not even in the cars, usually having an engineer, public relations manager, or their wives in the car for the contest as a weight-saver since the contest is purely athletic and rain or shine, meaning weather will not delay this Wednesday evening contest held indoors.

The Indy pit contest resembles a true "drag race" pit contest, with one car on the actual pit wall and another in a makeshift pit stall. The drivers are in the cars and fire the engines. When the signal is given, the teams perform a full pit stop (with simulated fuel gauges being used). Time ends when the driver lunges his car across the finish line. And unlike the Charlotte contest, this contest cannot be held in the rain.

Last year's Indy pit stop challenge ended with 7.962 seconds for the full pit stop for Hélio Castroneves and the Verizon/Mobil 1 Penske team, while last year's NASCAR contest had Kim Burton (in her husband Jeff's car; even the name on the roof was hers, while Jeff sat with his crew chief to cheer the team) in the "push car" for the Caterpillar Richard Childress Racing team for 22.115 seconds (with the 120-foot push). This year's NASCAR challenge had Jordan Fish (in her boyfriend Denny Hamlin's car) in the push car for the FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing winning the final in 23.132 seconds. Who will take the Indy pit crown?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sing it again, Sammy

OK, all kidding aside, this time Sammy Davis, Jr. gives us the real thing - one of the biggest TV themes of the 70s, "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow," from the Robert Blake detective drama Baretta, as it appeared over the opening credits.  There's no word on whether or not Blake really could do the time, since the jury acquitted him... 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What next - a comedy about WWII POWs?

In my wilder moments I like to think I've heard it all, and then something like this comes along.

Thanks to my friend Billy Ingram at TVParty!, here's the story of - and no, I'm not making this up - the infamous Britcom Heil Honey, I'm Home, which purports to be "the trials and domestic travails of Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun, a not-so-typical suburban couple."

The show only aired once, which I guess doesn't surprise me.  It was probably ahead of its time - I mean, it's hard to imagine a network not taking a chance on it today.  Sure, it would offend people, but isn't that good?  Good for free press, good for ratings.  What's not to like?  In fact, the reason it failed was probably because, as this clip illustrates, it simply wasn't all that funny.

It was filmed in Minneapolis, you know

Sammy Davis, Jr. sings "Love Is All Around," the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore show.

No further explanation necessary.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Art Linkletter, R.I.P.

Art Linkletter’s autobiography was entitled Confessions of a Happy Man, but that’s not to say it was without sorrow. He was given up for adoption as a baby, and said once that with every professional success he attained, he would hope that his natural parents were watching him, and regretting how they’d let him go. His daughter Dianne committed suicide in 1969, son Robert was killed in a car accident in 1980, son Jack (a TV host in his own right) died in 2007.

A TV Guide interview from the mid 60s suggests that his professional life wasn’t without its challenges either. A prickly relationship with fellow TV personality Ralph Edwards, a lost power struggle over a radio program (a temporary setback; Art would up getting the show back) – no, it wasn’t an easy road that Art Linkletter traveled in his 97 years.

What does all this mean? That life isn’t fair, perhaps? Linkletter once acknowledged the truth of it in an interview, but added “I'm an optimist. Even though I've had tragedies in my life, and I've seen a lot of difficult things, I still am an optimist."

That’s what made the difference. That’s why Art Linkletter could say he was a happy man. And that’s how he was able to bring so much happiness to other people, through a radio and television career that spanned three decades, and a legacy that went on even longer. His distinctive profile and familiar voice were household fixtures for the American public, back in the day.

Bill Cosby’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things”? That came from Art’s long-running daily show “House Party,” which wrapped up a seventeen-year run in 1969. Shows that forced audience members into ridiculous situations? That would be “People Are Funny,” the show that featured “things like throwing a pie in the face of a contestant who couldn't tell his Social Security number in five seconds, or asking him to go out and cash a check written on the side of a watermelon.” (Spoofed wonderfully in a Bugs Bunny cartoon that featured a program called “People Are Phony.” Daffy Duck was the foil, in case you doubted.) And we haven’t even touched on his best-selling books –his collection of "Darndest Things” stories was one of the biggest selling books of its time.  (And remains in print to this day.)

Yes, Art Linkletter was a throwback to another era, when television could be funny without being obscene, entertaining without being violent, uproarious without being demeaning. (He was also the rare television personality with a successful marriage – 75 years to the same woman.) His brand of entertainment was based on the positive rather than the negative, entertainment instead of existentialism. He was, as he said, an optimist.

As such, he faded somewhat into the background after leaving daily television, but even then he was never too far away for those who remembered him. He was a frequent guest on Larry King’s CNN show, where he would talk about how he surfed every morning to keep in shape. His daughter’s death turned him into a crusader against drug use, and in later years he became affiliated with a senior organization that challenged AARP and its liberal political agenda.

It’s appropriate in a way that his death today came in the middle of our Retro TV Week here at Our Word, because Art Linkletter truly was a major part of the cultural history of the 50s and 60s. I feel sorry for those unaware of who he was (too many in that category, unfortunately), or who never had the chance to appreciate him. They don’t know what they missed. We do, and what we’ll particularly miss is that he won’t be around anymore to remind us. But we have his books to fall back on, and the stray recording of one of his television appearances. And the memories, which stay with us as, of course, they are meant to. 

Opera Wednesday

Since this is supposed to be Retro TV Week, I thought I'd better come up with something if I wanted to remain an Our Word contributor in good stead. So let's look back at a time when you could turn on your TV and see famous opera stars singing on popular TV shows.

The Voice of Firestone was one such show, airing on radio and television for thirty-five years, first on NBC and later on ABC. Its television run began in 1949 and concluded in controversy fifteen years later, an ignominious victim of the ratings game. (For more about that, check out Mitchell's post from last fall's TV week.)

We're not here to talk about that today, however. Here's one of the great tenors of the 60s, Franco Corelli. (A shame he isn't remembered more today.) In this clip from a Voice of, I'd guess the early 60s, he signs the wonderful "Non piangere Liu" (Don't cry, Liu) from Puccini's Turandot. Some people (James Lileks, for example) have suggested that today might be television's true golden age - but are we really better off without programs like this?

Sammy and the Man?

And you thought we'd run out of these, hadn't you? But no! Once again we present Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr., this time performing his cover of Jose Feliciano's hit theme to the mid-70s sitcom Chico and the Man. starring Freddie Prinze and Jack Albertson.  In fact, Davis did do a guest turn on the program once, playing himself, so this does make a certain amount of sense.

(OK, as I'm typing this, I'm listening to The Doors singing "Light My Fire," also a big hit for Jose Feliciano. Coincidence perhaps, or something more?...)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This Just In Classic

Originally Posted December 20, 2006

“Frank Barone: Really Home for the Holidays” to Air Sunday Night

HOLLYWOOD, CA – In what’s expected to be a ratings blockbuster, CBS-TV announced yesterday that a three-hour special on the life of the late Frank Barone, patriarch of the hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, will air this Sunday evening, which is Christmas Eve.

Barone, in the person of actor Peter Boyle, passed away last week from cancer and heart disease at the age of 71.

"Frank Barone: Really Home for the Holidays” will focus on the life and family relationships of Frank Barone. “He was an irascible character that everybody really did love, even though he could be a little cranky and rough-edged,” said show producer Harvey Peterman. “He epitomized what a lot of us wanted our fathers to be.”

Cast members of the show, speaking at a hastily arranged news conference in the lobby of the building where the Boyles lived in New York City , said they are pleased the project is being rushed into production and expect it to do well.

“Peter, I mean Frank, I mean Dad would be really happy with this,” said series star and co-producer Ray Romano. “Besides, adding this to our current syndication package is a no-brainer. We’re talking mega-millions.”

Doris Roberts, who played Frank’s wife on the show, struggled through tears to express her support. “My husband was a wonderful man. Losing him so suddenly like this has left a huge hole in my life, and made for a difficult week. This show – on Sunday night at 9 p.m., 8 p.m. Central, check your local listings – will help all of us handle our grief a little easier. It will provide the closure that all final episodes should have.”

Meanwhile, lawyers for the Boyle family, including the wife and children of the late actor, have filed a lawsuit for civil damages in the wake of the family being barred from attending the Barone funeral, which was held earlier this week in a small chapel on Larry King’s estate in west Hollywood.

“We’re sensitive to that,” said CBS executive Marvin Goldblast. “We know that the ‘Peter Boyle’ aspect of Frank Barone’s life meant a great deal to them. There will be a time and place for them to grieve. But it isn’t now. We felt their presence would have been confusing to the American public that has invited the Barones into their living room every Monday night for the last nine years – never mind the syndication schedule, which is pretty much set up for eternity.”

The announcement that the show will be re-broadcast later Sunday night directly opposite the live telecast of Pope Benedict’s Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve, has drawn some criticism. “Sure the Pope is the Pope and a lot of people and shut-ins look forward to that telecast,” said Goldblast. “But, frankly, we expect the Barone special to blow it out of the water.”

More of Sammy Davis Jr., greatest TV hits

We're doing Retro TV Week here at Our Word, and was yesterday's bit about Sammy's cover of the theme to Hawaii Five-O enough for you? If not, try this one on for size: Sammy does the theme to another hit cop show of the 70s, Telly Savalas' Kojak.  It just doesn't get much better than this, does it? 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Retro TV Week

You know, we haven't done nearly enough retro television around here lately, which is too bad considering it's one of the things I enjoy writing about the most. So what better way to rectify that than to devote an entire week to the simple pleasures of the box?

Remember the great cop show of the 60s and 70s, Hawaii Five-O, starring Jack Lord as the incorruptible Steve McGarrett?  (CBS has a remake in the works for this season, which I don't think is necessarily a good thing.)  Hawaii Five-O had one of the greatest and best-known themes of any television show, written by Morton Stevens.

Now, did you know there were actually words to the theme?  Yes, really.  I don't know if the lyrics were originally written to go with the theme (I kind of doubt it), but after hearing it you might understand why it was always done on the show as an instrumental.  So here it is, the theme to Hawaii Five-O, sung by none other than Sammy Davis, Jr. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Stupid is as stupid does

On Let's Make a Deal, stupid prizes are called "Zonks". They're often called "Safety Car Moments" because these pieces of stupidity are often necessary to be calling for a Safety Car.

In Peru, a vocal group is about to perform when confetti starts popping during the start of the song! If you've read this blog in the past, you might even identify the song simply by the opening notes.

In Monaco, Michael Schumacher makes a pass on Fernando Alonso as the chequered flag waved illegally. In Formula One, if the final lap is run under caution, the race must finish under caution even though the safety car is moving to pit lane at the end of the final lap. In most racing, if the safety car is running during the final lap, the driver does not move to pit lane at the end, leading the winner across the line to end the race. Mr. Schumacher misinterpreted the rule.

Sportscaster Chris Myers used his substitute role on the Dan Patrick radio show to praise the people of Nashville for staying strong and banding together to rebuild, and compared that to that of New Orleans, where the people complained about the government instead of going ahead and rebuilding. The values of Nashville seemed to remind him of the value system in a Sprint Cup paddock of hard work, determination, and never giving up, things he mentioned in his book NASCAR Is America. Some want Mr. Myers suspended from the final telecast of the year, but this is wrongheaded. Remember when Kayne West went after President George W. Bush after Katrina? In the very same fifth-grade history book where I learned the dangers of the USSR, they teach in capitalism, you say you could do better, while in Communism you trust the government for everything. People like Mr. West are the type that Mr. Myers was discussing.

Liberals decided it was now time to push for more socialism and communism now in order to get everything done so they can encourage an extension of the New USSR. The "financial services reform" is another example of how the President and his Lefties demand we be controlled by the government, and we lose our financial system. The investor class has to go. The Reagan ideal must give away to a Soviet ideal of this Chicago Community Organiser.

And one more piece of stupidity: The increased control of the Service Employees International Union over this country showed when SEIU thugs sent fourteen buses to intimidate the deputy counsel for Bank of America. They protested at the counsel's home, which just had their teenage son, while the counsel was at a ball game with his other son. Police made no arrests. Yet this union thug organisation is increasing its power under this Presidency where they have control of this nation. Which executive is next for the SEIU?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Preakness Weekend Digest

A few years ago, there was a song that discussed "freaking" and I don't listen to rap, r&b, or any of the other popular genres in the market today, so I am inept at these "songs" where I confused "freaking" with this weekend's 135th Preakness Stakes. On to this weekend's digest

Ethan Epstein: Stamped for Failure. Porkulus I eliminated the mid-1990's welfare reform of the Gingrich Era as “prime minister”. California's looney welfare makes it better to live on it than to work. Is this Welfare Under Obama's NWO?

Heritage Foundation: Congress' Historic Decision to Ignore Its Basic Duty. I wonder if this is intended to let Obama stuff his entire extremist liberal agenda (or Pelosi, too) in budget authorisation bills. The 40% minimum wage hike passed in 2007 by the Pelosi “reign as prime minister” was passed through a defence authorisation bill, as was the thought crimes law through the same way. Is “cap and trade” and other nonsense to be passed into law with another budget ruse?

Philip Klein: Obama's Rationing Man. So it seems ObamaCare's next move is here – get the man who will ration health care to appease the socialists running the nation. Could we see where treatment won't be covered but suicide will?

Meredith Jessup: School Cancels Girls Basketball Team's Trip to Arizona over Immigration Law. So punish them because they punish criminals? You want criminals rewarded? Ten years ago, the NAACP passed a resolution boycotting South Carolina, and it worked. The Bi-Lo Center and newly built Colonial Life Arena (designed for it) are not allowed to host NCAA Basketball Tournament games, BB&T Coastal Field (Myrtle Beach) won the ACC Baseball Tournament hosting, but the NAACP stepped in and the ACC moved them out, and The (Johnnie) Cochran Firm helped sue NASCAR to take the last leg of the Grand Slam, and kill it from Florence, adding a new race in Fort Worth, TX. Is the success of killing South Carolina the reason for wanting Arizona killed for punishing criminals?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lena Horne, R.I.P.

Lena Horne really could do it all. She could sing, dance and act, and if that wasn't enough she could knock you out with her looks at the same time. She was a movie star, a recording artist, a Broadway sensation. And yet this is the clip that really makes me smile:

If being green wasn't easy for Kermit, being black was never easy for Lena Horne. She was, in a sense, a star whose name could merely be whispered. Will Friedwald, in his Wall Street Journal obit, describes a scene in which Horne is refused service at a lunch counter by a waiter, who then asks her for her autograph. Says Friedwald,

It's an open secret that Horne's numbers in her dozen MGM films (excepting the all-black "Cabin in the Sky") were designed for easy removal in case Southern audiences objected to the idea of a black woman being presented with the same dignity that MGM routinely gave to stars like Garland.
But Friedwald goes on to illustrate how even through this ignominity, Horne's dignity shone through. "She's not sullied with the hackneyed plots or corny dialogue—she appears out of nowhere to sing a great song, stops every heart in the theater, and then vanishes, as if she had just beamed back and forth from Planet Heaven."

She had a sensational one-woman show, "A Lady and Her Music," that cemented her legendary status. She was nominated for a Tony for "Jamaica." She played the Good Witch in The Wiz. She refused roles that reduced her to a stereotype or a caricature. She did a memorable guest turn on The Cosby Show. She made Ed Bradley melt on 60 Minutes. She did it all with style, grace and class that often belied the bitterness she always felt at the racism she endured.

In an insightful piece for The American Spectator, Aaron Goldstein writes of how in her late years Horne struggled to accept that image that everyone had of her, of someone with as much talent as Sinatra, Fitzgerald, Garland. If only she been able to see herself the way others saw her. But then, perhaps in her early years she'd had to endure too much of seeing herself through other people's eyes.

Well, enough of that. Because Lena Horne was a star, one of the greatest, and it's apparent in the outpouring of affection and respect that has come in the wake of her death over the weekend at 92 that she still is a star, and always will be. Indeed, for her, the Horne does not blow at midnight, and never will.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kids going over the edge: Germanotta singing, Knowles dancing

A few years ago I warned about immodesty at the dance studio, and as someone who has danced at a premiere dance studio in the nation (albeit as an adult jazz team member; our team wants modesty, so you don't see the questionable outfits the youth seem to always want; as I have noticed, we're setting an example and the youth don't want it), I think I've seen worse things happen. While checking the talk radio Web site, they had a link to a video (I shall not link to it because it's too close to pornography) with seven-year old girls in a bra-and-panties routine to a popular R&B tune from a very popular artist at the "World of Dance" competition.

These were seven year old kids! I was appalled as I remember the discussion I had with a past member of our adult team about modesty, and these kids were dancing in a competition dressed like prostitutes and performing a very popular song. The poll conducted by the radio station noted by 3:1 that this was raunchy.

And this isn't the only problem today. We have kids singing Stefani Germanotta songs (what?) in talent shows and the like. Can someone tell this generation Miss Knowles and Miss Germanotta are not appropriate role models, and jiggling in raunchy outfits is inappropriate as much as singing the bad songs of these artists?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Prayer Request

In your charity and kindness please pray for our friend, co-blogger and guest contributor Ray Marshall of the Stella Borealis site, who has been hospitalized since last Friday with pneumonia. Fellow friends and contributors Cathy and Terry have more.

Obama's Lifetime mentality

A few years ago, I read Laura Ingraham's Power to the People, which makes a mention of the Disney/Hearst cable channel Lifetime, where she notes the channel's consistent “men are bad” theme is displayed in the telefilms shown on Lifetime-branded programming (sometimes I wonder if that will include, as NBC recently did with the Kentucky Oaks with Bravo, ESPN moving the WNBA, depleted without its winnngest “Bad Girls and the Bad Boys” franchise that has been moved to Oklahoma, to Lifetime, carrying the ESPN brand).

With the actions of President Obama on Supreme Court justices, I wonder if a “Lifetime Mentality” is coming in play. By the end of the term, we may see a majority of five liberal women, all Clinton or Obama appointees, where the Democrats already have four justices and could gain the majority hould something happen. What's more concerning is Elena Kagan, the President's nominee for the Supreme Court, who has actively wanted to push the sexual deviants' special-rights agenda with homosexuality mandatory in.

Let's see where the Men are Bad brand goes:
  • Men Are Bad: Don't allow young boys to participate in sports because too many boys are playing sports (Title IX)
  • Men Are Bad: If a woman has less experience and works fewer hours than a man in the same role, she gets equal, if not more, pay than he does.
  • Men Are Bad: Restrict Men from Attending Schools while not restricting women.
  • Men Are Bad: All-women's Schools are legal, but not all-men's schools. 
So what is next in the Lifetime Mentality of this nation?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Confederate Memorial Day Digest

Rob Bluey: Obama’s Socialised Medicine bans doctor-owned hospitals, believes their “deity” of government is best.

Five California students penalised for wearing United States flags to school on the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. Is the United States Flag, by Flag Code, not permitted to be clothing?.

A former MTV “Real World” star and ESPN Great Outdoor Games lumberjack champion wants a vacant House seat.

MTV is doing it again to religion.

Sopranos prefer basses? (I think I have seen proof of it!) Then what does this tenor need for the right girl? A soprano or alto?

Grace-Marie Turner: ObamaCare’s Harmful budgetary impact.

Larry Elder: Greece on the Brink: Blame It on John Edwards.

John Yoo: Supreme Court Sanity Calls for Filibusters.

Oh, by the way: It’s Confederate Memorial Day Monday, and that means it’s time for the Showtime 500 in Florence Saturday. And please – it’s just the Showtime 500. “Southern” does not belong there because of Ferko and the race-baiters (Cochran) who assisted him. Could the PGA Tour be next to leave the state?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

National Day of Prayer controversy

In light of the National Day of Prayer Controversy, and the President refusing to observe it, I reminded myself of this clip from last year's event, promoted by the premier analyst in American motorsport, promoting the National Day of Prayer in a promotional video. A few years ago, he referenced the day specifically on a broadcast itself.

Sometimes you wonder what whould have happened if Martin Brundle had referenced such a religious day on the BBC for an F1 broadcast, or if Sam Posey, Bobby Unser, or Sir Jackie Stewart had referenced such a day at Indy. Imagine the outroar of any top-level sports analyst had promoted such a day. Some criticism of this Fox sportscaster is related to his blatant promotion of this day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A reunion, small theatre, and a setting?

Last month I had mentioned the Greenville (SC) Light Opera Works' performance of Der Schauspieldirektor, K. 486 ("The Impresario"), an operetta set in the narrow hall outside the Warehouse Theatre in the Upstate city. Now because of chicanes set up on Interstate 26 and on Interstate 385, I arrived 50 minutes later than expected so I had barely a seat to find in the small 70-seat makeshift hall with the glass windows facing the darkening sky, with ten minutes to go before the operetta of 40 minutes (and a three-hour drive overall; the two sopranos were one and a half and three and a half hours, respectively, from the city).

As I noted in my conversations with Heather Payne last month, the names she informed me of the characters were Madames Goldentrill (a precocious young soprano, originally referenced as Mme Herz) and Silverpeal (an aging Prima Donna, Mlle Silberklang). The programme called them Miss Sweetsong and Madame Silverklang, respectively, for the sopranos Lindsay Hilliard (Goldentrill) and Serena Hill (Silverpeal; Miss Hill was the last-minute replacement after the original fell ill one month before the opera was to take place; those who read the blog should know the importance of the 32-year old who shares Leontyne Price's (and also Rep. Marsha Blackburn's) hometown to one of our writers). Actor Bruce Meahl, a member of the area's theatre community, was "Herr Frank" (aka The Impresario), while baritone Daniel Marlatt was the assistant. Tenor Jonathan Kilpatric was the aristocratic playboy, Herr Eiler, who funds the opera. Interesting for this narrow setting the spoken parts are removed, and Eiler is a tenor instead of being just a spoken part. Also, Eiler's lover in the original, Mme Pfeil, was replaced by Mme Goldentrill, and the actresses in the original script weren't included.

As it was set in current-time Wien, where Frank laments art, music, and the economy, Buff presents plans for a new opera to be financed by Eiler. Frank and Buff are set as rag-tags, as was seen in their unkempt casual clothing, while the banker Buff was intended to be set, as director Jenna Tamisiea (stage director) noted, as a "Donald Trump" character, replete with black suit and pink tie (but no bad hair). That interesting move had me pondering what was happening because I don't think this operetta should have been set in 2010 Wien. The evidence of the small office, golf club, coffeemaker, and cell phones made it clear we were in a contemporary office building with glass walls and in the modern settings, as were the limbo games in the office using the putter as the limbo stick. That reminded me of a half round played by a soprano in Figaro, and that I started 2010 with a full round of golf on New Year's Day.

Also I read the syopsis online (see below link) and noted Silverpeal sings French arias while Goldentrill sings Italian. The strange irony is my years of sitting with her, watching her sing, the majority of what I know of hearing the Squirrel sing has been mostly Italian (The Consul, Le Nozze di Figaro, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica), although I've heard her sing Austrian works (Schubert, Haydn, Mozart -- must disclose that I was a tenor choir member in the Haydn choral production) and British works (Händel). The battle of the divas over pay results in enough kayfabe that Ric Flair could choreograph, but would be better off if Rob (Coo Coo) Concannon had choreographed the fight sequences!

A few reflections from the opera:

Opinion Digest

Worth noting:

Thomas Sowell: How the left distorts history through the "selective filtering of facts."

Mark Steyn: Who's protesting Arizona? Just the usual suspects.

At, college football columnist Andy Staples writes that only Notre Dame can stop a massive realignment of mega-conferences:

Essentially, football independence is a crucial piece of the soul of the university. Now Swarbrick and chancellor Rev. John Jenkins must decide whether Notre Dame will sell that piece of its soul to join the Big Ten

Oh, wait - Fr. Jenkins already sold part of Notre Shame's soul. How many more pieces does it have? Note to football purists: looking to John Jenkins as your last line of defense is like the French believing the Maginot Line would keep them safe.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Better late than never...

My apologies to one and all for not having gotten to this on Friday, which was Arbor Day. But what better way to reflect on Arbor Day than with the lyrics to Handel's Ombra mai fù, better known as the Largo from Serse - which is, in fact, an ode to a tree:

Never has there been a shade
of a plant
more dear and lovely,
or more gentle.

Yup, that about says it.

For a more musical approach to Handel, check out this piece from last year.

Marathon curse?

What is happening at marathons this year? Authorities have stepped in the middle of three major-city marathons this year -- one in South Carolina (Myrtle Beach), one in Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh), and one in Tennessee (Nashville) -- and weather also stopped a marathon in Maryland (Washington's Birthday).

In South Carolina, as we posted earlier this year, Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon XIII presented by Chick-Fil-A (February 13) was canned eight and a half hours before a rescheduled start because of snow and ice concerns by the city after organisers attempted that morning to move back the start 30 minutes in an attempt for better weather. As reporters at channel 32 noted on their Twitter accounts later, there was snow and icy roads in the vicinity of the marathon course at what should have been setup tiime (3 AM), and the organiser mentioned they could not run on Sunday because of churches on course (proven by simply driving on the route).

In Nashville, Competitor Group, the organisers of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series, was forced to shutter Country Music Marathon XI early because of thunderstorm concerns. Runners who had been slower than two hours by the transition point where the half-marathon course splits at 18km were forced to turn to LP Field; other runners who had run the Rosa Parks Boulevard section were told after officials made thunderstorm calls were told to turn around at the 33 km point to end their race and immediately proceed to LP Field, skipping the Shelby Park section. In each case the decision was made twofold; one for the competitors, the other was for the bands that play at 1,600 meters of the RNR marathon and half-marathon series. The cruelest irony was that Leukemia and Lymphoma Society "Team in Training" members in the Southeast who had trained for the full Myrtle Beach event only to see it go down in snow were entered in Nashville, and they were hit, some only going 21km, and others 34km of a marathon that they had entered to go the full 42,195 meters.

In Pittsburgh on May 2, a bomb scare forced officials at the Dick's Sporting Goods Marathon to suspend the event for a few minutes near the finish line. Concerned officials were nervous of another New York-style incident, so they played caution to the wind and forced a slight delay after the top runners had finished, and it went off without a hitch.

Is there a curse this year with marathons? We've had weather play parts in canning a marathon entirely and play havoc in cutting another short. Having done six and victimised by the snow, I cannot see what is next?
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