Wednesday, December 26, 2012

St. Stephen's Day

Christmastide reflections:

"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us."

Reading Acts 6-8 remind us today why, as believers, we observe December 26 as St. Stephen's Day, in memory of the first martyr of Christendom.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Our Christmas Message

From the chill of Minnesota to the mild Carolinas, we wish our readers at Our Word the message of rejoicing as the Saviour is Born!

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David); to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Robert Bork, R.I.P.

One of the lessons often lost in the world of social media is to be careful with words, because they mean things. This is particularly important when it comes to words such as right and wrong, good and evil, and the like. They’re pejorative words; a lawyer might call them “leading,” in that they’re designed to provoke a certain type of response, positive or negative.

The word “bad” is one of the worst kinds of pejoratives. It is a judgmental word, going beyond actions and straight to the heart of a person’s soul. It imputes values not only to deeds, but to motives as well. A man who does something wrong or foolish or misguided is not necessarily a bad man. We’re reminded that we’re to judge the act, not the actor.

Robert Bork, who died yesterday at the age of 85, was a brilliant and accomplished jurist who was done in, professionally, by bad men. More specific than that: he was done in by men such as Edward Kennedy and Joseph Biden.

I don’t hesitate to call them bad men, because they knew that the things they said about Robert Bork were not true. They were outright lies, or they were words twisted out of context, or they were pejoratives of their own that were designed to put Bork in the worst possible light. They sought to keep Bork off the Supreme Court, not because he wasn’t qualified, not because he wouldn’t uphold the law, but because they disagreed with him, they feared the effect he would have on the policies they favored, and they resolved to do whatever it took to deny him confirmation. They weren’t acting out of ignorance – they knew what they were doing. They weren’t acting on good intentions – they knew of their deceptions. And they went ahead with them.

In 1986, Biden was quoted in the Philadelphia Enquirer thusly: “Say the administration sends up Bork and after our investigation he looks a lot like another Scalia, I’d have to vote for him and if the groups tear me apart, that’s the medicine I’ll have to take, I’m not Teddy Kennedy.” As Bork pointed out in The Tempting of America, “My record was in fact almost identical to Scalia’s. . . .”Biden knew this, but it wasn’t convenient for him.* Having boxed himself into a corner (not the first time, nor the last), he chose to willingly deny the facts, because to do so suited his purpose.

*If I'm wrong - if, in fact, Biden really is that clueless that often, then - well, in the words of wrestling announcer Nigel McGuiness, "Everyone has a right to be stupid, but let's be honest, he's kind of abusing the privilege."

And as for Edward Kennedy – well, the less said about him, the better. ‘Tis not good to speak ill of the dead, after all. But Jim Gereghty, calling Kennedy “one of the most despicable men ever to hold high public office in the United States” (and to that I’d only add – why stop there? Surely few people of any prominence have been as despicable as Kennedy), referred to Kennedy’s “calumnious lies designed not simply to prevent Judge Bork from being appointed to the Supreme Court but to soil his character irretrievably.” For example, in Robert Bork’s America, “which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters,” and so on. Kennedy knew these were lies – he would have had to be not only despicable but impossibly stupid otherwise – but he said them anyway, because they suited his purpose.

Joe Nocera, himself a political liberal, provides on the op-ed page of The New York Times a brutally honest assessment of the left’s tactics, asserting that “many of the liberals fighting the nomination also knew they were unfair. That same Advocacy Institute [a liberal think-tank] memo noted that, ‘Like it or not, Bork falls (perhaps barely) at the borderline of respectability.’ It didn’t matter. He had to be portrayed ‘as an extreme ideological activist.’ The ends were used to justify some truly despicable means.”

The fact that Kennedy and Biden and their like did not soil Bork’s character irretrievably – that Robert Bork remained a distinguished and respected man – speaks not only of his character, but of theirs. They may have succeeded in keeping Bork off the Supreme Court, but they were not able to silence him, nor were they able to take away the respect that so many had for him.

Honest assessments of Robert Bork speak of his warmth and humanity, his sense of humor, his loyalty, and his brilliance. He would have served the Supreme Court, and the nation, with distinction and honor. That he was derailed primarily by two bad men, who had (or, in Biden’s case, have) neither distinction nor honor speaks less of Bork than it does of us as a people, for continuing to raise people like them to positions of authority. Corruption, as Bishop Sheen once pointed out, rises, like the bubbles in a glass of beer, from the bottom.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The nature of this commentary is extremely sensitive for me to write. Twenty years ago, a close friend in school was brutally attacked, shot, and nearly killed by a thirteen-year old monster who was sentenced to thirty years in prison, and after raping a second woman, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole under South Carolina's two yellow cards rule on heinous crimes. After Roper v. Simmons declared the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was law albeit it wasn't ratified by the United States Senate, his sentence was overturned for the second conviction and has less than ten years left on his original sentence. Today we've reconnected on social media, and she blogs about homeschooling (great site for parents who are serious about having their children learning things from a Biblically-based worldview, not the humanist worldview that created this monster that caused the shootings).

I offer my prayers for the victims and their families, along with the other children involved with the Connecticut school incident as I write today. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, a verse commonly quoted during the National Day of Prayer (not even observed by the current Administration), the verse states, "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." We are in need of that tonight.

For nearly eighty years, the Humanism of John Dewey has been the guiding light for schools and how people are taught in schools. People are taught there is no right, there is no wrong, and your feelings matter. In the postmodern worldview which includes abusing a certain verse in Matthew 7 on judging, our Sunday evening Bible study teacher discussed the folly of the twisting of the verse, and we have noted the twisted logic is taught in schools today. In such twisted logic, a pitch that crosses "an area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap" is not to be called a strike, and on a two-strike count, is not worthy of a punchout.

When schools are not allowed to teach Biblical standards but promote sin as normal, and right and wrong cannot be taught, what gives?

Christina Hoff Summers warned of how girls had the WNT's World Cup winners as role models while boys had Columbine. Well, what is next? A monster at this age who killed his mother and a class of children and more is sad. Humanism's danger is clearly evident now. Have we created monsters where God's Word no longer matters, and feelings mean anything goes?

When God is eliminated, we create the idea there is no right, there is no wrong, the only thing that matters is how you feel about yourself. The type of monster we created humanism we pay for the consequences today.

As we head to Messiah time

Christmas is always a quandry for this Palmetto State resident. At his home church the schedule calls for a "musical" for the youth called for a Warner Music Group musical, complete with karaoke, and plenty of dance, but nothing else. I had to shake my head considering the endorsement was by a Rick Warren official. Is this suitable for church?

So that was out of the picture. Clearly junk isn't worth a penny in my notebook. Two choices were clear -- one was the Episcopal church nearby with a Händel's Messiah, but I've noticed they are very corrupt considering the diocese line (I live on the other side of the line, where we have no Episcopal church, as our county's churches are now independent Anglican because of their alliance with the Charleston-based South Carolina diocese). Or is a serious piece with serious carols and hymns at the home church of the Flying Pig worth it?

(And yes, if you do remember, Flying Pig refers to the 2011 winner of the women's division at Cincinnati's marathon.)

Naturally after invitations it was a go to "fly with the Flying Pig," even though she and her mother and kids were a bit confused, not familiar with seeing me in a suit and tie (we're runners, so she's used to seeing me in running gear, not a suit). Another of our fellow runners (and fellow triathlete) was playing her violin, and an accompanist that I had for a recital was there on piano, and family joined on the trombone.

Ah, you have to love it when The Many Moods of Christmas had more serious material. Add the Hudson Sisters, legendary musician Dick Goodwin, and our violinist Hill, serious beats jokes.

And I have to remember Monday is Sing-along Messiah, which is another time I can have a shot to sing. Why are these opportunities harder to find? And there is some emotional thoughts into this one, as last year's bass soloist died in April from a terrifying automobile collision. Allison and I discussed the tragedy from then as she reflected tomorrow's event.

Life is truly precious, whether it was that crash in April we're discussing, or the terrifying Connecticut shooting that killed far too many, we must cherish life at every minute.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Retro TV Friday

Have you been keeping track of the TV blog?  If not, check out my version of what might have happened on one of my favorite shows if one of my favorite movies had been real.

Oh, by the way, if you haven't been reading It's About TV, why not? 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Airplane Conference

“Once word of the proposed conference leaked, other schools, witnessing the Darwinian changes in college football during the period, began nosing around for invitations as well.”

Written yesterday? Not quite. With the news that that the basketball-only members of the Big East Conference are considering either pulling out of the conference or disbanding it altogether, we’re being subjected to yet another round of headlines on conference realignment.

Realignment over the past few years has dealt more or less exclusively with the football side of things, and it usually boils down to two considerations: television and money. Or perhaps more accurately, television’s money – since the revenue generated by television, either through appearances in BCS bowl games or the conference’s television contract, is the prime consideration in almost (?) all of these moves.

It’s caused a lot of us to look back to the relatively stable days of yore, when the Big Ten actually had 10 teams, when all the schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference actually were on the Atlantic Coast, when the Southwestern Conference and the Big 8 existed side by side, and so on. Most of all, we remember when conferences were geographical collections of schools that shared particular commonalities. But when we consider a Big “East” that includes schools from Hawaii, Nevada and Idaho, we just shake our heads.

And yet, it may come as a surprise to learn that the idea of a conference in which the members were connected by planes rather than buses goes back over 60 years.  It certainly did to me, until I ran across it in a couple of books I've been reading for articles on the TV blog: The Fifty-Year Seduction by Keith Dunnavant and College Football and American Culture in the Cold War Era by Kurt Kemper.  And thus we come to the origin of the quotation at the beginning of this article.

The idea of a so-called “Airplane” Conference first arose in 1951, promoted, ironically, by Notre Dame President John Cavanaugh.* And, as we might have assumed, “the ability to attract revenue lay at the center of the proposal.” Cavanaugh’s plan included Indiana, Iowa State, Navy, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Army, Penn, Pittsburgh, SMU, Texas, USC, UCLA and Yale – an interesting mix of schools from around the country, including the presence of several which we might scoff at in any discussion of major college football today.

*I say “ironically” because Notre Dame has long been known as a holdout against joining any conference, at least for football.

Although Cavanaugh’s plan never really got off the ground, it laid the groundwork for Thomas Hamilton’s later plan for a National Conference. Hamilton, the AD at Pittsburgh, left in 1957 to head up efforts to form the conference, consisting of 12 members in two divisions, the winners of each division meeting for a de facto national championship game on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl. The Eastern Division of Cavanaugh’s National Conference would have included Army, Navy, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Syracuse and Notre Dame, while the Western Division would have included the five members of the AAWU (the conference providing the Western representative in the Rose Bowl) – USC, UCLA, Stanford, California and Washington, plus Air Force.

Hamilton’s plan was an intriguing one, because it didn’t poach on any existing conferences – the AAWU would have been the fulcrum of the conference, and the rest of the members were all independents at the time. And the idea gained great support – one newspaper columnist said “it will mean the beginning of a new era in college football. Harry Stuhldreher, member of Notre Dame’s legendary Four Horsemen, called it “a must.” Another supporter called it the “most outstanding sports idea” of his lifetime. As word leaked out, other schools – Houston, Miami, Penn, Duke and Georgia Tech – tried to position themselves for inclusion.

And yet it never happened. Why?

There are various theories – some thought that the military academies scuttled the idea, but that seemed unlikely; President Eisenhower was a great supporter of the football program at West Point, and it’s likely that membership in such a prominent conference would only help the service academies during the Cold War.* More likely, it was due to the administrators from the West Coast schools, worried about the increasing prominence of big-time sports. (They have fewer scruples today.)

*One called service academy football “travelling advertisements” for the schools.

Whatever the reason, the National Conference never did get off the ground. But isn’t this what we’re seeing today? Speculation is that college football will eventually wind up with four major superconferences, each with 16 members, and when that does happen there will be those who look back and wonder about the good old days. Who knew that progress was always on the agenda, and the good old days were merely an interruption? As I’ve written more than once, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Opinion Digest

The Opinion Digest is back rolling with five new columns from a variety of people, including a teacher.

Kelly Payne: Taxation, Let's get it right.

Javan Browder: On Egypt and the Arab Spring, Bill Connor was right

Lurita Doan: The Democrats' assault on language

Mark Steyn: The British Royal Couple has nothing on Dear Leader (considering how much we spend on Dear Leader and family versus what the royals spend). 

Albert Mohler: The Injustice of Helpful Parents – Yet More Insanity

Thursday, December 6, 2012

After reading Lauren Green's article on sacred music

While reading an article by Fox News reporter Lauren Green, attending an event in Italy's Foundation for Sacred Music and Arts (“La Fondazione Pro Musica E Arte Sacra”), she noted, “While today most sacred music of the great composers like Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, and others, are performed in secular concert halls, the festival aims to reverse that trend -- at least in the eternal city. Their respective travel businesses make it all happen.”

Peter Bahou (of Peter's Way Tours) notes, “even world-renowned musicians, who've performed for presidents and princes, are brought to tears when Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' (from his Ninth Symphony) or Mozart's 'Requiem,' are presented under the high altars of some of the venues like the grand Cathedral of St. Paul Outside the Walls, or the soaring arches of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.”

Miss Green also notes the differences between time periods of sacred music, with the Gregorian Chant representing the Medieval, the voices of Palestrina and Thoams Tallias representing the Renissance, with Bach being Baroque (which Leah Hungerford said during an early voice lesson was my voice).

Those excerpts forced me to remind myself while we have ejected the sacred music of the great composers from the church hall, we have replaced it with modern junk devoid of doctrine and theology, built around emotions, with 100-decibel loud rock music from the Michael Jackson Library, very secular. How have we come from the seriousness of sacred music being thrown off the halls of churches to replacing it with the latest in secularised pop tunes with loud rock instruments or karaoke? When houses of worship are playing Highway to Hell, Party Rock Anthem, Gangnam Style (duck! Can I have the Lowe's Holden Commodore with its Safety Car lights flashing to stop this insanity?) or the latest Top 40 song from the Billboard charts, it's clearly time we restore our church music back to church halls and take the pop drivel out of our cathedrals.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Last week, we saw the jackpot for one of the two multiple-state lottery games reach a value of five hundred million dollars in an annuitised jackpot.

It makes me shake my head to consider the number of people piling into groceries, convenience stores, and other wild places (some in dangerous parts of towns) to spend a Thomas Jefferson paper currency (or more) to purchase “chances” at winning this jackpot (for which the odds are slim to none). Why would people trust their entire fortune on the luck of one draw at 2259 hours (GMT-5) to see if they have five numbers and the special red number to clinch that pot of which the person is not expected to even win. Meanwhile, the President and his group are interested in telling people to cease participation in the market in favour of trusting the government, with new taxes aimed at the investors but not at those who participate in state-run numbers rackets.

Hard work is a virtue, but we have seen it replaced, especially with the results of the election earlier this month, with the idea government is a deity, and the entitlement generation has taught us government, not hard work, is the best virtue. Luck from the government is being encouraged, while we discourage hard work and investing with the masses piling to the numerous numbers racket locations, wanting their two dollars to spend on a worthless ticket.

So we no longer trust God, we no longer want hard work, we just want the government to pay us aplenty. That's the message from the lottery lines.

What gives?

And oh, by the way: Sony's Glee is going “Gangnam Style” and they're singing it in Korean. I don't think the Greenville Light Opera Works would want that, considering both what I've read from Renée Fleming's The Inner Voice about opera before the 20th century, when supertitles did not exist, the operas were sung in the tongue of the region, not the original tongue of the opera, which is how our Upstate opera company sings their operettas in English translation. If the Upstate opera company can sing translations of great operas, why can't this raunchy pop culture show sing a Korean tune translated? Turns out many Korean tunes (K-pop) popular with the youth of Korea are translated from other languages from Swedish pop factories. If they tried to sing other K-pop ditties might they try to sing those in English? How many times have I seen a Greenville Light Opera Works singer sing the wonderful opera pieces that should be in Italian instead in English? That was then, and this light company does it the way it was.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looking ahead to NBC F1 in 2013

As the Formula One season ends Sunday in Interlagos, NBC announced the lead voice for most F1 races will be INDYCAR play-by-play man Leigh Diffey from Brisbane, Queensland (Australia). For those who haven't heard the 41-year old Charlotte-based commentator, here are some wild clips of him to familiarise yourself with his call.

Most play-by-play men take to the helm of bigger events when they are older. In this case, Diffey was 26 when the Great Australian Touring Car Split occurred in 1997 (television was the dispute between the Seven and Ten networks; Seven had Bathurst's legendary 1,000km event, but refused to let the race be on Ten, which had the Australian Touring Car (V8 Supercars) contract, relegating the 1,000 in its October date to the European 2000cc Super Touring format and the V8's had to find another date. (Murray Walker ironically was on Seven's broadcast team for the Super Touring 1000) Ironically, this is similar to what has happened with V8 today in Melbourne. Currently, Seven has the rights to V8 Supercars (contract ends at the end of 2012) and Ten has Formula One rights. In order for Australia's favourite 5000cc formula to race in Melbourne after V8 went from Ten to Seven in 2007, it changed from championship to an exhibition race, non-championship event. (Why Abu Dhabi's V8 round can be a championship race I don't know but Ten picks up a British television broadcast of the race for all but their own race so they don't worry; V8 will race in Austin for May.)

For Ten's five-litre formula call, Diffey had the call with the late British motorcycling legend Barry Sheene (whose name now is laid on a crucial turn in the forest at Brands Hatch): 1997: Craig Lowndes, who would become a legend of the Mountain, hits the wall:

2005: Every Australian knows this incident on the Mountain. Ambrose vs Murphy It was Ambrose's last time on the Mountain. Both Ambrose and Diffey are now Charlotte based.

That led to this hilarious interview between the two parties, six years later, with Ambrose in Kansas City and Murphy in Bathurst. Another Charlotte-based commentator, Mike Joy, who is on the Mountain for the 2011 Great Race, presides over this verbal fight. If Mike had his way, he would have had a spotter in The Cutting report it before the pictures showed him the result.

2011: Diffey's career started in public address systems for motorcycling and he calls what has become sadly a type of motorcycling event that has faded from the international scene, the 200-mile, 320km format that once was prominent in races such as Imola. Daytona's Sportbike race now has the classic distance:

It still is not known what will happen for the five to seven races that Diffey will be unavailable because of INDYCAR commitments.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The consumerist society is out of control; we want Thanksgiving back!

Our consumerist society is clearly out of control.

The five red lights for the traditional day after Thanksgiving sales (Pilgrims' Day as Canadians might call it considering what we call Thanksgiving in Canada, which is in October) are turning on very early and extinguishing at an even earlier time than normal.

Whereas I can remember the red lights turning on at 5:59 for the traditional 6 AM lights extinguishing, we have seen the lights at 4:59 AM, and now have crept to Thanksgiving, with 11:59 PM lights, and some merchants have switched to 7:59 PM lights – and the NFL is likely unhappy with such mass consumerism. Whatever happened to running a Turkey Trot, having a nice family dinner and the three NFL games (Noon, 4 PM, and 8 PM) and then resting, and if you are a merchant, preparing for another day (remember Wall Street does sound the 9:30 AM bell) and my fitness partner and I have often done, tough Black Friday workouts, that I cannot imagine the stores full of people before Faith Hill hates herself for loving you at 8 PM ET.

No wonder merchants and families are wanting their day back. Those of us up at the crack of dawn and running for charity have more virtue than those eating too much, let alone piling stores at 5 PM, awaiting the 7:59 PM lights turning on, similar to the crowds at concert venues for the pop star's next concert at a venue that sells out quickly (which is why one country star went from the 18,000 seat arena to a 80,000 seat stadium for local concerts), where people can be attacked and even killed in the stampedes worse than 15 bovines, led by Asteroid, tossing 15 cowboys, led by Silvano Alves, in less than five seconds each. The five red lights should not be turning on Thanksgiving, let alone 7:59 PM, 9:59 PM, or 11:59 PM, or even Friday before sunrise! No wonder I'm planning to do a hard workout on Black Friday morning and doing some merchant tools instead of a trip to the mall.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An interesting move

Well, Comcast has done it again. Another major sports property is going to the Philadelphia-based cable company, as the Barclays Premier League has signed a deal to move all 380 games to Comcast properties in 2013-14 for three seasons. This will mean NBC, NBC Sports Network, and likely CNBC (since the business channel doesn't have anything on Saturday or Sunday mornings, so this gives them programming on weekends; in addition, another Comcast channel -- likely G4, E!, or one of their entertainment channels, could carry games on F1 weekends when NBCSN is committed to F1) will air the games with streaming of the other games.

It puts the question that has withered on the vine since we discussed it earlier. Which channel will News Corp sacrifice for the new Fox Sports One that has been discussed with the new baseball deal? Speculation on Daly Planet has been Speed, but with the loss of soccer rights (except for the Scottish league, UEFA, and all FIFA from 2015 until 2022), could one of the two Fox Soccer channels be dumped to create the new Fox Sports One, and the Plus become Fox Sports International with rugby (did you know that the six-tackle rule in Rugby League was borrowed from the gridiron code's four downs to make ten yards), Aussie Rules, and V8 Supercars (which has a May race at the Circuit of the Americas; during the 2011 season, Fox sent their top play-by-play man and analyst to the Australian touring car series' big races on Mount Panorama in Bathurst, New South Wales and the streets of Surfers Paradise, Queensland (which was a CART Champ Car event from 1991-2007, and an INDYCAR exhibition race in 2008; the 2011 V8 race was the first time in a long time US-based broadcasters were actually Down Under for Surfers and not holed in a studio Up North as was the case in the later years of CART/Champ Car and INDYCAR).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

This isn't, strictly speaking, an opera piece, but I think it's appropriate all the same, seeing as how it's Halloween.  From the American composer Michael Daugherty (who has written operas, by the way, so there's my tie-in), here is the charmingly weird and delightfully offbeat Dead Elvis, for Solo Bassoon and Chamber Ensemble.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The real life of TV drama

Over at the TV blog this week, I've got a piece up on my my top political movies, a revision of a similar post I did here a few years ago. One of the additions to that list is a taut, well-done TV docudrama about the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Missiles of October.

As it so happens, Terry Teachout wrote an article about The Missiles of October earlier this month, observing the 50th anniversary of the event that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.  Teachout describes many of the same aspects of Missiles that I admired in the production, so rather than rehash them I recommend you click on the link and check him out.  (You should anyway; he's one of the most talented culture critics around, and always edifying.)  It's gratifying to know I have such good taste in television!   

Watch The Missiles of October it its entirety, starting below with part 1.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

End of The Streak

One of the biggest college football games of this weekend, if not the biggest, is the matchup between Notre Dame and Oklahoma on Saturday night in Norman. Notre Dame, in its annual ritual of trying to recapture its past glory, comes into the game unbeaten and ranked #5, while the Sooners, losers only to Kansas State, are #8. This ought to be a terrific game, which means it will probably fall victim to ESPN’s hype machine and won’t come anywhere near the buildup.

These two teams have a history against each other, and this might be the most important meeting between the two since 1957. That game, however, made history, and this year’s edition will be hard-pressed to match it.

It was November 16, 1957, and the Fighting Irish brought a record of 4-2 into Norman against the 7-0 Sooners. But Oklahoma was more than undefeated in 1957 – they had not lost a game since 1953. They had been beaten 28-21 by Notre Dame early in 1953, then tied Pitt 7-7, before reeling off a string of 47 consecutive victories (including the tie against Pitt, a run of 48 without a loss).

Today, it’s staggering to think about: three consecutive undefeated seasons (1954, 1955 and 1956) and two national championships (1955 and 1956). Even considering that college football was much more regional in the 1950s, and that Oklahoma had dominated the Big 7 Conference for years, still – 47 straight victories. To put this in context, since World War I only four major college teams have had winning streaks of 30 games or more: Toledo (35 from 1969-1971), Miami (34 from 2000-2002), and – Oklahoma again (31 from 1948-50). For the 11 seasons from 1948 to 1958, Oklahoma posted a record of 107-8-2. Not bad.

Eh, maybe not so much?  The start of the
SI jinx - note the date of the issue
The 1957 game against Notre Dame became legendary, of course, because the Irish ended the streak, beating the Sooners 7-0. The game had everything you could ask for: tradition (two of the most storied teams in college football), mystique (the Golden Dome vs. the Unbeaten), and hatred (the South’s anti-Catholicism vs. the North’s scorn for redneck Okies). Sooner football was everything for a state whose biggest claim to fame was the musical Oklahoma, and the thought of Oklahoma losing was, well, unthinkable.

The Sooners started out strongly but were unable to convert. Notre Dame broke the scoreless tie in the 4th quarter on a short touchdown pass to Dick Lynch, and it began to sink in that Oklahoma might actually lose. In the waning minutes the Sooners started one last drive, knowing that although the winning streak might end, they could still salvage the undefeated run with a tie (in these days before the two-point conversion), but a late interception snuffed out even that hope. The Streak was over and the crowd shocked into silence, followed for many by tears.

Oklahoma would win out the rest of the way, defeating Duke in the Orange Bowl and finishing #4 in the country, but the seniors would carry the burden of being the class that failed to finish their college careers unbeaten. Notre Dame would lose the next week to Iowa and finish the year 7-3, ranked #12.

There’s quite a good book about that undefeated Oklahoma team, appropriately entitled The Undefeated, by Jim Dent, and you can read here for more about the game itself.

Will Saturday’s game have this level of drama? Doubtful – but Oklahoma and Notre Dame should still put on quite a show, in the very stadium in which, 55 years ago, a piece of college football history came to an end.

And here are the highlights of that historic game, narrated by Chris Schenkel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Paglia on Opera

Camille Paglia is one of the most provocative, incisive commentators on the cultural scene today. I don't always agree with her - frequently, in fact, I don't - but she's one of the few writers who defies expectations by telling it like it is, without regard to what others might think. Whether she's discussing sex, politics, or art, you can always count on something stimulating.  Her own wonderful self-description is that of "dissident feminist."

In this month's issue of Opera News, Paglia turns her eyes toward the world of opera (duh), and lets fly.  The question to her is whether or not she'd agree with interpretations of Lucia di Lammermoor that read Lucia's ultimate desent into madness as a sort of sexual liberation.  I'm not sure what the interviewer, Brian Kellow hoped to get for an answer, whether he thought Paglia would agree with this interpretation, but he couldn't have been surprised that Paglia gave him an earful, touching on an incredible array of subjects all at once.

Interpretations like this, she says, drive her crazy: 

"I oppose the export of feminist or any other ideology into pre-modern works.  But it's epidemic.  It's the heritage of identity politics, which began in acedeme in the 1970s.  It skews interpretation of all kinds of historical works.  When you focus on the woman's angle or the black angle or the gay angle, you're distorting the text.   It's an extrapolation of contemporary assumptions backward so that one never escapes the present.  Do you realize that the word 'Renaissance' is slowly being dropped in English departments?  There's been a steady process in high-level British and American adademe to substitute 'Early Modern' instead.  But when the glorious Renaissance is seen as only the beginning of us, it's a dead end of solipsism."

And with that, Paglia has identified so much of what's wrong not only with opera, but with academe, with politics, with the passing down of culture and the evolution (or devolution) of Western civilization.  It's this kind of provocative discussion that we need now, more than ever - and with the thought police on one hand and political correctness on the other, we're even less likely to get it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cutting to the chase: RI school sends students to Dear Leader rally

As they say on television, it's time to Cut to the Chase, and with two weeks and change until the end of this Chase, it has become evident that the government school system has become a source of propaganda promotion, similar to that of the Soviet Union.

Officials at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, a charter school in Rhode Island, rented buses and sent all 250 students and the faculty to New Hampshire to attend a rally for President Obama. One state legislator noted how Mitt Romney's events were not given the same treatment.

This sounds of Soviet propaganda with the promotion of Communism, the promotion of devolution of industry to the point Communist nations overtake us, the promotion of foreign law usurping local, state, and federal laws, sexual deviancy, thought crimes, pushing humanism as the state religion, the elimination of the nation's fundamental freedoms, elimination of the patriots of the nation, and promotion of new “heroes” that advance the liberal agenda. None of this is acceptable to those of us who studied in parochial school. Can you imagine Christopher Columbus is ignored while we promote Harvey Milk and Barney Frank in schools?

Empowering children to become slaves of the entitlement generation, sucking on food stamps, unemployment benefits, and promoting the green agenda that kills industries in favour of “saving mother earth” (Gaia worship) through the wind-and-solar mantra is a serious concern. Furthermore, “Dear Leader” (as Mr. Obama is being promoted via this incident in Rhode Island) is telling the children that being on government money is far superior to those who would rather brown-bag their lunches with home-grown vegetables, local grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, organic fruits and local milk, and spend what they would have spent in purchasing junk in shares in a stock that continuously pays dividends (Lowe's, SCANA) and makes money for its shareholders (Whole Foods Market, Under Armour). Why do you think he tags as a goal over 40% in dividend, capital gains, and income taxes for those who invest well in key staples such as those companies? So if I spend $25 per month in a stock that consistently grows and pays dividends, and I am paid $1 every quarter for dividends, you want to tax me over 50 cents overall on the money that I make? That's the class warfare Dear Leader pushes, and what those children are being taught.

That is poor economic thought, but trying to reverse generations that have learned under the Reagan era to invest in the stock market and instead trust in the government is what this Administration is trying to do with the youth. To the Obama Administration, stocks are bad while government entitlements are good.

DISCLAIMER: Mr. Chang is a shareholder in all four stocks mentioned.

Monday, October 22, 2012

On the decline of orchestras (and classical music) today

I began taking voice lessons after being inspired by a few friends, and in February 2002 took my first official foray into vocal lessons. I never thought I would see the day that classical music became "the" music for me, yet for Serena LaRoche, Leah Hungerford, along with choral directors Jennifer Adam, Peppie Calvar, Susan Kelly, Keith Walker, Lillian Quackenbush, Alicia Walker, and numerous other choral singers (Rebecca Cunningham), soloists (Ashley Briggs, Sarah Rich, Jaeyoon Kim, Jacob Will, Kelsey Harrison), my musical attitude took a turn for the better, and as we learned three and a half years later, perfect for Our Word.

Having sung in four Summer Choruses, two one-offs at various churches, and a Governor's Carolighting in the hastily organised choir, the dearth of choral opportunities at home with pop drivel and karaoke replacing serious material and orchestras concerns me. While listening to a talk radio show, the hostess noted, "We need to pray for the survival of classical music not only because of its beauty, but also because it reminds us of the centuries when our society was so infused by the Christian gospel."

Patrick Kavanaugh in World magazine commented on such musical problems. While he noted it may be economic, market, the bullying of bad rock music in our culture, it was easily noticed that Biblical text and Christian theology dominates classical music, noting Brahms’ Requiem, Händel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Compare the difference between the Mass in C Major and that of a modern rock tune certain Life Enhancement Centres play in their buildings. Nolo contendere est. Keep in mind in our society today, humanism is the official state religion, and to advance the cause they have to prohibit classical works from performance in order to force us to carry humanism's dark agenda found through the modern pop tunes of society today.

Here is Mr. Kavanaugh's thought about the trouble with music today 

Monday, October 15, 2012


No dancing in the booth please." During the "kid-friendly" radio broadcast of the Bank of America 500 available on the Web and trackside at Charlotte Motor Speedway, organised by the circuit, the latest fad dance tune (PSY's "Gangnam Style") was playing as bumper music before the event. Play-by-play man Mike Joy, who was working with his 13-year old son Scott (John Andretti, Bob Dillner, and Larry McReynolds also alternated with their families in the broadcast), warned his son he did not want to see the fad dance performed in the broadcast booth.

Breaking: F1 to Comcast

As was reported by various statements, Comcast (the firm that distributed Senna) has won F1 rights for the United States television market for the NBC Sports Network and NBC broadcast network (likely the three North American races and Brasil), ending News Corp's long reign with F1. I'll speculate that James Allen and Will Buxton will get first dibs at the lead broadcast role trackside.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is the Roman Alphabet on its way out? ESPN is now posting material in Cyrillic for today's КХЛ broadcast

Start your Cyrillic keyboards and reading in the said alphabet! ESPN has announced a deal with the Континентальная Хоккейная Лига for ESPN broadcasts (not Webcasts) on selected afternoons. The first КХЛ broadcast is today.

Does this mean we are now headed to an era where the Roman alphabet is being phased out globally and either Kanji, Chinese scripts, or Cyrillic are now the global text of the future?

Meanwhile, locks, which are typically placed on MTV networks, are now being placed on Comcast networks based on need.

UPDATE: Here's a review of ESPN's coverage of the game.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

MLB Relegates Pirates to Amateur Leagues

(NEW YORK CITY) – Major League Baseball announced the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of professional baseball's oldest franchises, will be stripped of its franchise and relegated to club amateur status. 

The decision was made after the team has consistently been a jobber, and for 20 consecutive seasons at the professional level, has been jobbing towards large-market teams. Without any hope for the future, MLB decided the Pirates must be relegated to the equivalent of football's Isthmian League, into amateur club status. 

The club must win promotion in 10 consecutive years in order to return to Major League Baseball, and must advance though club levels, to rookie, then low A, high A, double A, and triple A, before being readmitted to MLB.

Monday, October 1, 2012

United States Surrenders to European Union; Brussels New Capital

(MEDINAH, IL) -- United States President Barack Obama has signed the Treaty of Medinah, announcing the Surrender of the United States of America, ceding the end of the 236-year old country, putting it in the hands of the European Union.

Officials at the PGA of America and the European Tour witnessed the historic signing, which gives the European Union the entire former United States, which will now be administered as one giant nation by the European Union. The lawmaking body will be legislated from the member nations of the European Union, which will govern the newly captured territory themselves.

"This monumental collapse Sunday forced our forces to surrender. With the accumulating debt, we have no choice but to give up our flag, currency, way of life, and surrender everything to the European Union." 

The official currency of the captured territories will be the Euro, and the metric system will replace the Imperial system immediately. The nation's new capital will be in Brussels.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chris Economaki, R.I.P.

Listen to Fox Sports Radio on a Sunday morning, and Rob d'Amico hosts the motorsport-related programme "Speed Sport on Fox".

Find a newsstand for Speed Sport magazine, published by Ralph Sheheen.

Or you might just head over to

All of these things have one thing in common.

Flash back to 1934, where a young kid in the Depression era was selling copies of a New Jersey-based publication focused on local dirt track and board track motorsport of the time, hawking single copies of a publication to racegoers. 

Thus began the story of Chris Economaki, who later took control of the magazine until media trends changed in the late 2000's.

We remember Chris Economaki today, on the word from current Speed Sport magazine publisher Ralph Sheheen that the 92-year old journalism legend has died.

A tribute by Congress:

More than thirty years before Mike Joy's call of Australia's legendary Bathurst 1000 for US television sent Australian race fans wanting more of his calls, Chris was pitside for Seven's call of the Great Race.

1984: Economaki at a dirt track while covering Talladega the next afternoon. The simple fundamentals of sport are often mentioned still.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Of pay television, the Emmys, and the National Championship Playoff

TThe Emmys have become an elitist event where the raunchiest "comedies" that promote anti-Biblical themes win, and most of the big winners are the Premium Pay TV (HBO/Showtime) shows. No wonder network television is in decline -- the awards voters always vote for the shows very few people watch, on the premium channels, where there are no standards on decency. The industry has shot themselves in the foot by making the most important shows the premium pay shows. And of course, as usual, there's a huge worship of The Whammy at these awards.

Are you telling me decency standards should never be allowed, since only the raunchiest shows can win?  What does that say now?

And on this note, I strongly believe that the BCS officials are contemplating now that they've switched to pay television for the championship game, why not go to Premium Pay TV or Pay Per View and earn more money.  The possibilities are endless when the only broadcasts of the game will not be radio or standard television but pay-per-view.  Can you imagine a New Year's Day tradition of sport will disappear this year as all postseason games on New Year's Day are pay games and NBC's New Year's Day show will be cancelled?  Tell your NBC affiliate to not celebrate the day, since your show won't air.  Hmmmmm . . . 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Andy Williams, R.I.P.

Reprinted from today's It's About TV.

I always liked Andy Williams, and in fact there was something very likable about him. He was handsome, with an attractive family and a smooth, easy style.  He didn't seem to take himself overly seriously, and he did seem to be enjoying himself on stage.  He stood behind his ex-wife when she was accused of murdering her lover, and there was something quite noble about that.  Yes, memories of watching Andy on TV are warm, pleasant ones.

But I wonder if he doesn't become even more likeable in retrospect, and I don't mean that in a critical way.  You see, there are entertainers who are timeless becuase they always seem relevant.  But others, like Andy Williams, are timeless because they epitomize their time. 

What does that mean?  Well, I'm not sure.  Even as I try to figure it out I struggle to explain it in words.  But Sinatra, for example, is always Sinatra; and whenever you watch him (at least until his last, trying years), you feel like it's happening right now.  Inside that concert hall it could be 1958 or 1988; it doesn't really matter.  Time is what Frank says it is.  And that's why Frank's always cool.

But when you watch a DVD of an Andy Williams Christmas special, time doesn't stand still; instead, you’re transported back in time. Perhaps, as in my case, it’s to childhood; for others, it might be the days of your first job, your first love, your first Christmas together. Watching Andy sing with his brothers, you might find yourself remembering trips back home for the holidays; when he walks down the streets of an imaginary downtown, it might be the town where you grew up.; when the whole family sits around the fireplace singing carols, it could be your family on a cold winter’s eve.  The feeling you get watching one of these shows is more than just pleasure; it's a sense of warmth, of security, of simple pleasure.

And just as you smile when Frank Sinatra sings "You make me feel so young" because Frank's always young when he sings that, no matter how old he is, you smile when you watch Andy Williams because he makes you feel so young.  Frank comes into your life; Andy brings you into his.  We can (and often do) idealize the past, but when Andy sings "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (a song written for one of his shows, by the way), you remember what it was like when people actually went downtown to do their shopping, when cities actually used the word "Christmas" without fear, when Peace on Earth wasn't a cynical dream.  But don't take my word for it; those shows were special to everyone.

And that's why Andy Williams' Christmas shows are even better now than they were then; perhaps back then we took everything for granted, assumed that things would continue to be the way they'd always been.  Back then we didn't need Andy Williams to tell us how things were, because we were there.  Today, we need him because we'll never get back there again. And so when we read today of his death of cancer, at age 84, we mourned his death, but in a way he'll never be dead; he'll always be frozen in that time machine, keeping it ready for us every Christmas.

But if this is too existential for you, then let's just enjoy Andy doing what he does best: singing, and making us feel just a little bit better for it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Steve Sabol, R.I.P.

Reprinted from today's It's About TV.

Mike Greenberg of ESPN said it best this morning: everyone who loves professional football owes Steve Sabol a big debt of gratitude.

When I was a kid, I thought football was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And my favorite TV show was probably NFL Action – even more than Alvin. In Minneapolis, it aired on Sundays in the summer, after the late local news, and it was one of the supreme treats that came from being able to stay up late when school was out. NFL Action – and the other shows produced by NFL Films, such as This Week in Pro Football – created a mythology about the game. It turned players into noble soldiers and simple grass fields became muddied scenes of pitched battle – all accompanied by Sturm und Drang soundtracks and narration by The Voice of God, aka John Facenda.

It was great, great stuff, absolutely mesmerizing for a kid like me. Whereas in past years kids might have grown up idolizing King Arthur or Red Ryder or Dick Tracy, the heroes of my imagination were the Green Bay Packers. They were the best team in the NFL, and the NFL was the best sport there was. And while those kids had sat in front of the radio listening to their heroes in the serials of their day, I sat in front of the television watching my heroes as portrayed by NFL Films, the company founded by Ed Sabol as Blair Motion Pictures, and eventually run by his son Steve. Together the two of them understood that football was more than just a game determining a winner and loser – it was an elemental story of human drama that begged to be told.

Without Ed Sabol, there would have been no NFL Films. But as Joe Posnanski wrote, “the vision [came] from Steve. When it came to football, he heard John Facenda's voice of God narrating in his head long before he knew John Facenda. In his mind, even as a kid playing sixth grade football, the games were epic struggles. The players were gladiators. The uniforms transformed mortals into gods. The autumn wind was a Raider. No, Steve Sabol never thought small.” I never played organized football, but in every other respect I was that sixth grader who understood that football wasn’t life or death – it was more important than that, a validation of one’s entire code of life.

How important to the NFL was the work of Steve Sabol? Brett Farve said, "He changed the face of the NFL without ever playing a down in it.'' “NFL Films,”'s Richard Rothschld wrote, “became a fan’s ticket to the entire league.” It was that dream of the NFL, probably even more than the game itself, that attracted me. It’s hard for me to describe – here, Posnanski puts into words the feelings with which I grew up:
Before the Sabols and NFL Films, mud on the football field was just mud on the football field. NFL Films turned that mud into something holy, something that reflected guts and manhood and courage. Mud proved a Herculean test for the players' souls. NFL Films showed cleats sloshing in mud, mud dripping off taped hands, mud caked on arms, the way mud turned linebackers into heroic and dangerous figures. We take that for granted now because NFL Films has created this image of pro football, but there's nothing intrinsically romantic about mud.

Chuck Klosterman sums up the talent that Steve Sabol had, in talking about a poem that Sabol wrote for an Oakland Raiders film. It’s not, Klosterman says, the best poem ever,

It might not be the 100th-best poem about autumn. But Sabol knew how those words would sound when John Facenda recited them, and he understood the kind of person who would hear them, and he could instantly visualize which images should fall behind them. NFL Films is a rare example of cinematographers placing style over substance and actually making the product infinitely more substantial. Sabol did this effortlessly, for 50 years. It was his natural state of filmmaking.

Steve never lacked for recognition; over the years he earned 35 Emmys for writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producing, and with Ed received the Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award. So you see, it wasn’t just the fans who recognized how special that work was.

As the years progress you can see the game change through the lens of NFL Films: the muddy grass replaced by plastic turf, the shadows of old ballparks replaced by the light of flying-saucer type creations, the players change from long-sleeved athletes to hulkish giants in stretched-out jerseys, the game itself change into a multi-billion dollar business. In fact, as I go through my collection of shows from NFL Films, I can see my love for the NFL falling away, bit by bit, as time passes, until there is nothing left.

But my admiration for NFL Films and the work they did never left me. And as I learned more about Steve Sabol, I began to appreciate him in a completely different way. A couple of years ago I wrote about how I thought it would have been my dream job to work at NFL Films. "My Dad hated his job," Steve once said. "He sold overcoats, but he wanted to make movies. He had a failed career working with the Ritz Brothers -- they were like the Marx Brothers, only a tier below. I always had a picture in my mind of him in a straw hat.”

You got the impression that Steve also had a picture in his mind of how Ed hated his job, and was determined that would never happen to him. He knew that football was not the most important thing in the world, but it was something he loved, and so it was important to do it right. And so he created a place where people who shared that love could not only get to do it for a living, but have fun doing it. He would give them an incredible amount of freedom with that job, because he knew that people who loved their work, who saw it as more than just punching a clock at a job, would bring to that work a skill and devotion that made it special. Trust and humor – words that keep popping up in descriptions of him. As Klosterman writes, “I never met Steve Sabol, but I wish I could have worked for him.”

He was dedicated to his job, and to his father. Ed Sabol was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame last year – after Steve had been diagnosed with the brain tumor that would kill him yesterday, at the much-too-young age of 69 – and Steve had the chance to put things into perspective.

"For a company that prides itself on telling good stories,'' he said, "this is one hell of a story. Dad makes the Hall of Fame. Son's going to be his presenter. Son gets a brain tumor. Now the story is, Is the son going to be there? Will the son make it? Who knows? I could be around until the Super Bowl in New York [2014]. But I've had a lot of time to think ...

"So they talk about heaven, and I don't know what is waiting for me up there. But I can tell you this: Nothing will happen up there that can duplicate my life down here. That life cannot be better than the one I've lived down here, the football life. It's been perfect."

Steve Sabol was, by all accounts, an extraordinary man; one NFL GM told Peter King that he “was the most ethical person I knew.” And I think it shows in the way he lived his life. He saw it as a gift: not to be wasted, as some do, nor simply to be endured, as others feel. It was meant to be lived.

And so he did that, for 69 years. He loved what he did and how he did it; he had a passion, and figured out a way to transmit that passion to others, to share it with them so that it would become their passion as well. He loved his work and made a career out of it, and it wasn’t just a career that he somehow fit into; it was a career he created.

As I said, an extraordinary man.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An appreciation for Bob Jenkins on his final race

As we head to the MAVTV 500 INDYCAR World Championships Saturday, we come to the end of Bob Jenkins' career in television broadcasting. As was mentioned earlier in the year, the 65-year old Mr. Jenkins announced his retirement during Carburetion Day, as his wife Pam is undergoing treatment for a serious illness.

Here are some classic Jenkins clips as we celebrate the career of a motor racing legend behind the microphone.

Black Sunday:

Sid Watkins, R.I.P.

Most of our readers have probably never heard of Sid Watkins, but within Formula 1 circles he’s a legend, even though he never won a race, or even sat behind the wheel of an F1 car.

Instead, he saved lives.

The Prof, as he was known, was a gifted neurosurgeon, and F1’s chief medical man for many years. Two from the F1 world who knew him, James Allen and Joe Saward, offer tributes here. I would only add that, having read Life at the Limit: Triumph and Tragedy in Formula One and having seen and heard him in last year’s documentary Senna, I was deeply impressed with the man. He was thoughtful, intelligent, compelling, dedicated not only to the sport and its safety, but in a unique way to the men who put their lives on the line in their racing cars.

He was a close friend of the great Ayrton Senna, and noted the former champion’s unease at Imola in 1994, a weekend that had already seen his fellow driver Roland Ratzenberger killed and his protégé Rubens Barrichello severely injured. Why don’t we just chuck it all, Watkins suggested. Walk away from the track, leave it all behind, go fishing? But Senna could not do it, and the following day it was Senna who would lie dying on the track after a crash, with Watkins bent over him, unable to stop the inevitable. Later, Watkins would write that although he was not a religious man, he felt "[Senna’s] spirit depart at that moment" of his death. It was a measure both of the profound weight of Senna’s Catholic faith and the – what, empathy? intuition? something more?

Though he was not a believer, I like to think that at that moment Sid Watkins sensed the truth. He was a man of great skill and accomplishments, who as both a doctor and a man did great works of mercy. That, I believe, must count for something. And so I think we can be emboldened to think that, at the final moment, his good friend Senna might have intervened for him, encouraged him to say Yes, help him across the threshhold. For those of us who admired him, it's a pleasant hope.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Day +11: Young America's Foundation warning

This has to be deliberate, folks. We just saw on live television as a second plane flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center. Now given what has been going on around the world, Some of the key suspects come to mind, Usama bin Laden, who knows what." -- news broadcast on The Day.

Ron Meyer, 22, of Young America's Foundation has a serious warning about what is happening to the Patriot Day memorials, considering what this White House has done to both the military and the day itself:
Many college and high school students can barely remember 9/11. Seniors in college were in fifth grade, freshmen were in first grade, and most high schoolers hadn't even started school. 2012 is the most important year--so far--to remember 9/11 because our younger generations are the most in danger of forgetting what really happened. Or worse, our younger generations are susceptible to getting a politically correct view of 9/11. Many on the Left have tried to turn 9/11 into a "day of national service" or a celebration of tolerance, instead of remembering that radical jihad attacked this nation because of our western values.

And let us take a moment to remember Mark Bavis.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Retro TV Friday

It was 40 years ago that the Republicans last held their convention in Florida, at which they renominated the ticket of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.  Nixon-Agnew would win 49 states that fall, and less than two years later they'd both be out of office.

Which makes some of the lines in Nixon's acceptance speech ironic, but if you look beyond that you'll be surprised at how much of this speech remains relevant today, from Nixon's concerns about the economy and foreign policy to his comment that one didn't fight discrimination against a group by in turn discriminating against another group.  We are the United States of America, Nixon said, not the Divided States.  Indeed - Mitt Romney could have used that line intact last night.

Here's Nixon's acceptance speech from August 23, 1972, given from the largest, most grandious podium I've ever seen at a convention.  I mean, compare that to the laughably little ones they use today.  That thing has the state seal of every state in the country.  They have television monitors down at the bottom, because it's so tall and so steep that people sitting at the base can't see Nixon up top.  Some people thought it was a little, shall we say, imperial.  Predictably, I love it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong, R.I.P.

In the life of every legend, there comes the moment when he ceases being merely a man. For Neil Armstrong, that moment came, in a sense, on September 17, 1962. That was the day he was officially named an astronaut, and that evening his parents appeared on I've Got a Secret to commemorate the event.

It's a stunning moment, given that Armstrong was anything but a household name, when Garry Moore poses the question.  How would you feel if your son was the first man on the moon?  For Moore, born in the decade after the Wright Brothers' flight, the idea of a man walking on the moon was an abstract concept, an unimaginable goal that was inexorably in the process of becoming reality.  For those born or of age in the decade of the 70s, the moon landing was a given; impressive, to be sure, but hardly unfathomable, because they'd never known it any other way. 

Having been born in 1960, I was a child of the space age, growing up with the space program as a part of everyday life.  My memories became cognisant with the final flight of Mercury, and clearer as Gemini progressed.  By the time of the Apollo 1 fire, they were fully formed, and for the rest of the space race I was joyfully along for the ride.  

And amidst the iconic names of the era, the Glenns and Shepards and Grissoms, there was no more iconic name than that of Neil Armstrong.  

It was hard to believe that the images actually came from the moon.  I'm not talking about the kind of suspicion the conspiracy buffs promote, but simply the unbelievability that a live picture could be broadcast from another world.  Are you sure this is going to be from the moon?  They aren't going to just be broadcasting the audio over some kind of animation?

No, it was real all right, and Armstrong's small step propelled him into the unwanted realm of immortality, his name forever to be linked to the unimaginable.  As Arthur C. Clarke would write, "Now history and fiction have become inexorably intertwined."  Armstrong was not a Christopher Columbus looking for personal achievement, but a man carrying out a mission.  It was something that Armstrong, tempermentally more engineer than explorer, was never comfortable with.

But in another sense Armstrong was the perfect hero, a man who exuded integrity.  When he chaired the Challenger investigation committee, there was no thought that the committee would produce a whitewash or a coverup.  You knew Neil Armstrong wouldn't have any part in something like that.  His refusal to stay in the public spotlight, to make something of his renoun, added to that sense.  He always disclaimed personal honors, reminding everyone of all those behind the scenes who helped to make it happen.  And so his refusal to consider himself a hero made him more of one, and even more than that, it made him admirable.  There is a high school in Robbinsdale, Minnesota called Armstrong High School.  It's named after him, as I'm sure are countless others throughout the country.  There was once a coach of the Chicago Bears named Neill Armstrong.  Whenever I heard his name I always thought of the astronaut, as I'm sure many others did. 

And as the years passed, as Armstrong faded into the recesses of history, replaced by reality shows and flavor-of-the-month celebrities, his stature - at least to me - rose even more.  For those of us who realized the total magnitude of the moon landing, how it changed everything into pre-landing and post-landing eras, there was something amazing about the idea that Armstrong still lived, and that we shared that time with him.  It was similar to the way the early astronauts themselves had felt about Charles Lindbergh, who had lived into the early 70s and whom many of them had met.  There was something amazing about it all, and something comforting, to live with that link to greatness.

I doubt that flags will be lowered to half staff this week to commemorate Neil Armstrong's death, but they should be.  This will probably sound trite, but it's not every day that the first man to walk on the surface of another world dies.  We didn't see Columbus land in the new world, or Magellan circumnavigate the globe, or Hillary set foot on Mount Everest.  We weren't at the North Pole or the South Pole, we never saw explorers set foot on foreign lands, but hundreds of millions saw Neil Armstrong live when he walked on the moon, and anyone with a computer can call it up on YouTube any time they like.

The thing about greatness, though - true greatness - is that it tends to outlive itself.  The men and women who reach such greatness live on long after their accomplishments, in the pages of the history they helped to create.  So we'll remember Neil Armstrong, as we should, and marvel that we lived in his times.  
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