Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ed Sullivan's America

I suggested a couple of weeks ago that there was a new blog on the way, and now it's here - Our Word presents It's About TV! It's About TV is just that - all about television and the shaping of American culture, with a concentration on television of the 50s and 60s. I think you'll find it not only informative, hopefully with a lot of "I didn't know that!" moments, but also fun and offbeat. And your suggestions, as always, will be more than welcome. Updated once or twice a week, it can be found at

I mention this because a little while ago I promised you a review of Gerald Nachman's Right Here on Our Stage Toinght! Ed Sullivan's America. Well, here it is!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Retro TV Friday

I was reminded of an album of jazz standards recorded by gospel legends Sandi Patty and Kathy Troccoli (both of whom I've seen) that I have (Together) inspired this Retro TV Friday column.

I grew up watching the Robin Ward (1980), Gordon Elliott/Lynn Swann/Alex Trebek (1990-91), and in a more recent time, the John O'Hurley (2000-01) versions of the Goodson-Todman (all episodes until 1977), Mark Goodson (Ward and 1990-91), and later Radio Television Luxembourg (O'Hurley) stalwart To Tell The Truth, a game show where four celebrities had to predict which of three panelists were being true and identifying who they were, and who was lying. Stumping the celebrities was worth a monetary bonus to the three panelists.

How do both get together? In this 1970's clip of the Garry Moore version, you can hear "The Trolley Song" playing (Miss Troccoli recorded it on the jazz standard album in question). I was frustrated after not being part of a team that I usually dance each year this time, and was reminded of what happened when Garry Moore tried to get Bill Cullen off the trolley the way Kitty Carlisle, Gene Rayburn, and Peggy Cass had exited.

Of course, those who remember Bill Cullen knew he had childhood polio, and because of it, studios had to specially redo their opens or accommodate their studios for Mr. Cullen, so we know this was actually to compensate for his polio. (On the CBS 1980's The $25,000 Pyramid, panelists were already seated instead of walking to the stage when Mr. Cullen was a panelist; in the 1980 episodes of Password Plus he hosted when Allen Ludden was hospitalised, Cullen did not walk out on stage the way the panelists and Ludden had.)

Strange open to those who don't know the whole story.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Classic Sports Thursday

Last week, Grete Waitz, the Norwegian marathoner, lost her battle with cancer at 57. Having run the Cooper River Bridge Run 10k (she won in 1989), and won nine ING New York City Marathons, we remember the life of a pioneer in women's distance running.

From the BBC, inaugural IAAF World Championships women's marathon.

From the New York Road Runners Club.

Finished second in Los Angeles, in a historic marathon (and the lady who beat her is still turning times in the 2:40 range in her 50's).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Know That My Redeemer Liveth!

As we have previously mentioned, the full Händel's Messiah was written not for Christmas, but as an Easter piece. Among readers, I wonder how many people have seen the entire piece live? Having attended a 2006 South Carolina Philharmonic production of the wondrous work with Hill, Hanna, Cuttino, and Rattray, I cannot say enough about the full piece, and not the excerpts-only (Part I only, for the most part, at most church and choral productions, is a Christmas setting, but it's Part II and III that are Easter settings) and when processed hot dogs, cotton candy, MSG, and breaded fried foods is the way of most "church" music today, it makes you yearn for the whole foods of grass-fed beef, grilled Alaskan salmon, free-range chicken, organic vegetables, and the freshness of a farmer's market or the wonders of a Whole Foods Market that you will find in the true church works.

Part III starts with the soprano's aria "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth". The one time I heard this piece live was the 2006 Philharmonic production, with the Mississippi Squirrel singing this solo (ever wonder why I dropped to the main tier instead of my Grand Tier seats for that? It is, after all, one who made me a classical singer and admire the genre, and made the classical turn of my late 20's) I had to ask why we weren't singing this material in churches today. Why did I waste so much time? Would this have been drilled more if I had stayed in The City, making it a younger me who would have sing more in his youth? And why are churches thinking jiggling to certain hip-hop artists has more value than this?

This production provided today is from Outside the Beltway, December 2007, with Julie Thomas singing the selection. The Christ Is Risen!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hosanna, Hosanna! (Holy Week)

I'm writing this just before breakfast and devotionals in this Holy Week, the week we remember when Christ Himself was crucified.

Years ago, when I purchased my first songbook for "serious" study (remember I was past college, having my first lesson at 26), there was a song listed in my book, Favorite Sacred Classics for Solo Singers, that I thought would be nice to pull because it fits the theme.

Here's Québecois tenor Paul Trépanier at the St-Pierre Apôtre church, accompanied by the Choeur de Laval, under the direction of Germain Lefebvre, with this Jean-Baptiste Faure piece.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen, R.I.P.

She was The Doctor's best friend (and if you have to ask "Doctor who?" you're almost there). Elisabeth Sladen, aka Sarah Jane Smith, was the iconic companion of my early days as a Whovian (along with Leela, but that's a story for another day), and it was easy to see why so many fell in love with her. She was sassy and spunky (in that Lou Grant-to-Mary Tyler Moore way), and she had a sexy wholesomeness or a wholesome sexiness, whichever you prefer, that was irrestible.  And, confidentially, I've always been a sucker for Lis spelled with an s.

Lis Sladen played Sarah Jane Smith for two Doctors, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, and was the first companion to have her own spin-off (K-9 and Company, a one-off, and for the last few years The Sarah Jane Chronicles.  Her departure from the series in 1976 was heartbreaking not only for the Doctor, but for her fans as well - and, as we found out a couple of seasons ago when she returned to the show as a guest star, it was heartbreaking for her character as well.  And what great news it was when she did reprise Sarah Jane, and then star in the spin-off.  It was as if time stood still for a moment, which is (after all) a good thing to happen when you're dealing with Time Lords.

But as we too-often find out, whenever time does stand still, even if it's only briefly, it has to start up again - and when it stops a second time, it's usually for good.  Elisabeth Sladen died this morning from cancer, at the age of 62. Here is the story from the Doctor Who News Page, along with tributes from the Doctor Who family.  Combined with the death a few months ago of Nick Courtney, the iconic Brigadier, it's been a sobering time for Doctor Who fans, aleviated only by the debut of the new season on BBC America this Saturday.  Which just goes to show, I suppose, that life goes on, or whatever that hoary old cliche is about death and birth.

Ah, Lis, you were way too young to leave us, and today we suddenly feel that much older.  

Wish I'd Written That

A pipe organ) is an orchestra in a single instrument, and there simply is nothing that speaks of the power of God better in Western worship music than the king of instruments."

Ingrid Schlueter, on the power of the church organ, which is sadly being replaced at too many venues with rock bands.

Reflections on a Holy Week Tuesday

Sears has a brain that Hollywood won't use. When Sears has to file a lawsuit against an adult product manufacturer over a product infringing on the use of the Hoffman Estates merchant's signature brand of electrical parts (batteries, et al), when television production companies did nothing when their brands were abused by adult stores for the advancement of adult products, it's clear that Sears is doing the right thing to protect their brand, when film companies are not accepting of the same protection of their brand names.

800-Squatting. A provider of questionable adult material has been “800-squatting” (similar to cybersquatting, a tactic used by some companies to deceive others to push an agenda) to use 800 numbers to push pornography using well-known brand names. This is out of control. I remember when a now-defunct automaker used a 800 number that included the model of one of their famous cars of the past as their customer service line (twice I drove that brand).

An unfortunate loss. Nine-time ING New York City Marathon champion, and 1989 women's division winner of the Cooper River Bridge Run, Grete Waitz dies of cancer at 57. A whole generation of women, who were unable to compete at events longer than 800m before 1972, and 1,500m before 1984, rejoiced in Los Angeles when ladies were able to run 42,195m at the Olympics for the first time. Now women have beaten men at a marathon (this year's Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach) and there was consideration the women, not the men, be the Olympics curtain-closer for London instead of being the mid-Olympic event. The international running community, especially for those of us who have run the same paths she has run, is poorer now the the loss of a legend.

The Power of Netflix? The FAA suspended two air traffic workers at an airport for watching a movie while on duty. I wonder if these employees were using office computers to watch Netflix all the time. The popular trend is to cord-cut and disconnect from cable and satellite, to only watch television via Netflix and other movie services, which means no sports, et al. But I think Netflix could price themselves off once their original series begins, since the price will definitely need to be raised to the $20-$30 range to accompany the original series.

Love Hurts. The controversy over Rob Bell's new book Love Wins and its rotten theology even promoted by certain mainstream news media has resulted in my looking back at the times I drive through Charleston in the past with billboards stating “Love Hurts” and “Love Means Nothing”. Well, Mr. Bell, Love Hurts and Love Means Nothing, based on your worldview.

Life Enhancement Centres Gone Mad. During Sunday's Aaron's 499 broadcast on Fox, NewSpring, the local kingpin of these false religious venues, ran numerous ads promoting their mega-service for Easter in the various “campuses”. Mars Hill in the Pacific Northwest is running promotions now for a huge Easter “service” at Qwest Field. The numerous Life Enhancement Centres doing rock concerts, karaoke, or other dippy junk just won't cut it. Whatever happened to serious study of God's Word?

And Even Some Catholics Are Selling Out to the New Age. A report in Connecticut came that a Catholic retreat centre has now begun to offer New Age materials and teachings. What gives?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wish I'd Written That

At dinner [Wolfe] started on automation. He has always been anti-machine, and on automation his position was that it would soon make life an absurdity. It was already bad enough; on a cold and windy March day he was eating his evening meal in comfortable warmth, and he had no personal connection whatever with the production of the warmth. The check that paid the oil bill was connected, but he wasn't. Soon, with automation, no one would have any connection with the processes and phenomena that make it possible to stay alive. We would all be parasites, living not on some other living organisms but on machines, arrived at the ultimate ignominy."

- Rex Stout about Nero Wolfe, A Right to Die

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Classic Sports Thursday

In honor of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin this week, here's a moment that may not be retro, but is certainly classic: the most satisfying Cup victory of all time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Opera Wednesday

There are four operas that carry the title Griselda – separate ones from brothers Antonio and Giovanni Bononcini, along with musical legends Antonio Vivaldi and Alessandro Scarlatti having each composed a Griselda, each based on the short story “The Patient Griselda” from Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron. Before I continue I must disclose my vocal resumé includes singing the signature aria from Giovanni Bononcini's version in closing a recital (and just for fun, in an earlier recital, the singer who followed me sang that song!).

In this selection from the second act of the Vivaldi Griselda, the titular character and her husband, Gualtiero, King of Thessaly's daughter Costanza sings about being tossed by contrary winds on the billowing seas. This work depicts Vivaldi's way of describing in music natural events, well-known in The Four Seasons, the best-known piece of music from Mr. Vivaldi.

This version of “Agitata da due venti” comes to us from Celia Bartoli from 2000. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wish I'd Written That

What right have you to march in here and ask questions at all? Polite or not?"

"None. It's not a right, it's a liberty. I have no right to ask you to have dinner with me this evening, which might not be a bad idea, but I'm at liberty to, and you're at liberty to tell me you'd rather dine at the automat with a baboon, only that wouldn't be very polite. Also, when I ask if you have any letters from Sarah Yare you're at liberty to tell me to go climb a tree if you find the question ticklish. I might add that I would be at liberty to climb a pole instead of a tree. Have you any letters from Sarah Yare?"

- Rex Stout (as said by Archie Goodwin), Murder Is No Joke.

Safety at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace: Grande Prêmio do Brasil

With the first race of the F1 schedule scrapped (Bahrain) after unrest in the nation, now controversy has erupted over the last race on the F1 schedule, Interlagos (Brasil). Only this time, it's not about unrest in the nation, it's far worse.

After a second Brazilian Touring Car fatality (this time in the lower-tier "Utes," as our Australian friends call them, after the V8 Supercar Series' lower-tier series) in four years at the same section in question, and second overall fatality this year (a February track day led to the death of a motorcyclist in the same section) at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, calls for the run to the pit straight through Subida dos Boxes and Curva do Cafe to be changed erupted. A SAFER barrier was installed in the section in question last year before the F1 race, and a chicane was installed for motorcycles, and used in the Brazilian Touring Cars. But the controversy over this is continuing. Confederacao Brasileira de Automobilismo has asked the FIA for help.

Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace

Blue: Old Section (arrows note direction; there are changes in direction in the 1980's track truncation; F1 first raced on the truncated Interlagos in 1990)

Red: Current Section (arrows note direction)

Yellow: Controversial Section from Subida dos Boxes and Curva do Cafe.

A permanent yellow flag (no overtaking allowed) is being installed for a few race meets, but the idea of demolishing a section of seating in order to add more runoff is being considered. The lack of runoff at the section in question is the main criticism. Another potential fix could be using the old Juncao (the last part of the track that was changed in the run to the finish) and adding a chicane where the present Juncao sits or expanding the current chicane built for motorcycle racing (roughly in the blue between the red and yellow past Juncao into Subida dos Boxes)..

This will be an interesting story as we get closer to the end of the season to see what happens.

UPDATE: CBA has confirmed there will be a new runoff section in the questionable section, meaning seats will be removed.


Video of the chicane in a Brazilian Touring Car event:.
Joe Saward's take.

More safety needed.

CBA wants more runoff.

Original Interlagos Photograph Courtesy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Opinion Digest

The lowdown on what you should know:

Robert Knight: Marching in Lockstep to a Radical Agenda (the Department of Social Engineering, Special Rights Division, replacing the Armed Forces).

Joseph Farah: The War on American Oil.

Ann Coulter: Thanks For Raising My Taxes - What Else Can I Do For You?

Kathryn Lopez: Planned Parenthood's Pink in Hot Water.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Retro TV Friday

Perry Mason was probably the greatest lawyer series in the history of television, and for my money this was the best of the many opening title sequences the series used during its nine seasons.

What makes it best? Well, aside from the theme (which James Lileks once famoulsy said every lawyer secretly wanted played at his funeral), there's the stark imagry present in the stylish graphics: the attorney, alone before the bar, in solitary defense of his client. That's not just a powerful image, but it's the imbodiment of what every client hopes for in a courtroom: his attorney, in single warrior combat, defending him to teh death. Wouldn't we all want that?

In addition, you have the granite features of Mason, which morph into the flesh-and-blood of Raymond Burr himself. Not only is this really sophisticated for the time, but the underlying premise is of Mason as icon. Is it a statue of Perry himself, in honor of his work? Or are our thoughts supposed to be drawn to the famous statue of justice, blind, as representative of Mason's singular quest for justice for his client? (Erle Stanley Gardner's books, even more than the series, make it clear that Mason isn't above bending the law and the rules to ensure that justice for his client).

Whatever you read into it, this is a memorable opening sequence for a memorable series.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Classic Sports Thursday

It’s about sports, but it really isn’t.

It’s about life. And death. And the undeniable fact that to live is to die, that there is no way around the natural progression of things.

Nick Charles is going to die. It may happen in the next few weeks or months, it may be sooner than that.

Nick Charles was one of the original legends of CNN, teaming up with Fred Hickman for twenty-some years to do Sports Tonight, the network’s answer to ESPN’s SportsCenter. It was always a better show, in my opinion, than SC was – and this was back in the day when SC was more about sports and less about shtick. When the network dropped Sports Tonight (and what do they have in that timespot now? AC360, as if that’s an improvement), Charles went to Showtime, and then to HBO.

A while ago I wrote about Charles’ battle with cancer – a battle which, as this heartbreaking article tells us, he is going to lose. But it’s the way he has prepared for his defeat: his determination and his faith, his defiance and acceptance. It’s such a damn cliché to say that it’s an inspiration, so I’d rather not bother. When he says he’s ready for death, I believe him, and I’m happy for him in the way we should be when we consider that death in an earthly life leads to birth in an eternal one. The sorrow, as it is, is deeply felt by his family, friends and loved ones, who will lose the pleasure of his company. And those of us, like me, who knew him only from television but admired and liked him.

I’m not Oprah – I don’t shed tears at the drop of a hat, but I was deeply moved by this story, saddened and encouraged at the same time. In particular, I defy anyone to remain emotionless as Charles’ doctors tell him what he is likely to experience in the last week of his life.

Read this, and watch the video. And if you’re the praying sort, say a prayer for Nick Charles and his family. And while you’re at it, say one for yourself, that you might meet death, and life, with the same courage.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Opera Wednesday

Back in 1975, the entertainer Danny Kaye did a series of specials designed to introduce young people to opera, in much the same way that Leonard Bernstein did for classical music. Entitled "Danny Kay's Look-In at the Metropolitan Opera, the show gave viewers insight into what went on at the Met, from behind the scenes to on the stage.

Here's a clip from the the April 1975 show, featuring a wonderful opera parody with Danny and the great Beverly Sills.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

This Just In

Cubs Take Field for Season Opener, Are Officially Eliminated From Pennant Race

(CHICAGO, April 1) – The Chicago Cubs were officially eliminated from the National League pennant race today, just moments after taking the field for their season opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Naturally it’s a disappointment,” Cubs skipper Mike Quade said in a subdued Cubs dugout just before the first pitch was thrown. “After all the hard work in the offseason, to see it end like that before it’s even begun is tough to take, you know?

“But I’m proud of them anyway,” he continued. “To go out there like that and give it their all, even knowing this is not their year, and they’ve still got six months to go, well, I tip my hat to them. It would be easy for them to just show up and go through the motions, pretend there’s nothing at stake, but they’re going to play like it was the first game of the season. Which is the same thing, I guess.”

“We’re professional ballplayers,” Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena said. “We take pride in wearing the Cubs uniform. Even though we’re going to miss the World Series for the 66th consecutive year, and fail to win it all for the 103rd straight season, you won’t see this team give up.”

Beat writer Paul Sullivan, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Tribune, said that fans still had much to look forward to for the remainder of the season. “First of all, there’s the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, the most beautiful ballpark in America. The ivy covered walls, the hand operated scoreboard, the ghosts of all the hall of famers who’ve beaten the Cubs over the years. Every baseball fan should come to Wrigley at least once, even if the Cubs are out of town.

“But there’s so much more to seeing the Cubs play. Did I mention Wrigley Field?”

Quade said he’d use the remaining 161 games to give younger players a chance. “We’ll bring some of our youngsters up from Triple A and see what they have to offer. Sure, they’re probably playing on a better team with Des Moines, but once they’ve had a taste of major league baseball, or at least Cubs baseball, they won’t want to go back. We h

In a related development, the Cubs lost their season opener to Pittsburgh, 6-3.

Friday, April 1, 2011

This is not a joke!

This kiwi from the press is not kidding, not an Äpril Föol's Joke.

P. S. If you can unscramble the letters that have links, you will have the subject.

Peter Sauber: No dismissals after the wing affair at the Qantas Grand Prix. But where were CAMS and FIA stewards? Do they even have pre-race inspection to make sure the wings are legal? Were they checked pre-impound? Can officials check the cars in the impound?

Retro TV Friday

Iit may be Opening Day for baseball this weekend, but today I'm thinking of a different opening day - that of the original Disneyland on July 17, 1955, and as Ed Sullivan might have put it, it was a really big shew. Today it might seem strange for the opening of an amusement park to be broadcast live on national television, but then nobody had ever seen anything like Disneyland before.

Besides, ABC had helped finance Walt Disney's dream, in return for Disney doing a weekly television show for the fledgling medium. (This in itself was a big deal, as movie moguls still thought of television either as light entertainment or a major threat to their livelihood.) So it's no wonder that ABC blocked out 90 minutes on that day for the star-studded broadcast, which attracted 90 million viewers.

Here's part one; the entire broadcast is available on YouTube by following the links at the end of each segment.

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