Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Opera Wednesday

How old is Gioachino Rossini? 220 years, unless you take his Leap Day birthday into account, which makes him - what, 56? This article does a wonderful job of explaining to us what we already suspected - why Rossini is so funny.

And if that didn't answer your question, maybe this will - Rossini's famous Cat Duet. 

Leaping Digest!

Leaping Ahead . . .

Why do we pay $750,000 for (gasp!) a football pitch that detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base's jail for Al Qaeda terrorists use?

Dennis Prager leaps over what is now taught in school -- and he is dead-on.

John Hawkins finds liberals forget five things children know:

Rush Limbaugh believes the President is diving the nation on social issues, not Messrs. Santorum or Gingrich.

Robert Zubrin describes how rejecting Keystone XL has supported the enemies of the nation.

This is PGA Tour FedEx Cup golfer Gerry (Bubba) Watson's car in question, from the Waste Management Phoenix Open, that has been barred from pre-race ceremonies for Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500km (Sunday, 2:30 PM ET, Fox). It is from a 1978-85 television programme from Warner Bros. Television that became a cult hit, and one of the first used on the show is now owned by the golfer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Retro TV Friday

I've introduced a new feature over at the It's About TV! website called "This Week in TV Guide."  Every Saturday (because that's when the week started in a classic TV Guide program listing), I'll feature the week as seen in a TV Guide of the past.*  Sometimes the focus will be on the programs themselves; other times I'll take a closer look at a story or event that appeared in the features section - you know, the part with the glossy paper.

*Which means, come to think of it, there'll be a new one up tomorrow.  I'd better get started.

I think you'll find it not only an interesting look at television of the 50s through the mid 70s, but also a glimpse into a world that, for better or worse, no longer exists.  Nostalgia, yes, but undeniably with insight into the things, places and people that shaped our culture in the later part of the 20th Century.  I hope you'll check it out every week!  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Idiot's delight

Just in case you thought politicans had cornered the market on idiotic behavior, here are a couple of stories that show the world of sports is no piker when it comes to leaving your brains behind.

First is this ridiculous story courtesy of the fantastic uniform site Uni Watch, where we find out that Major League Baseball is effectively preventing the Houston Astros from offering a historicaly accurate redition of the uniforms they wore at the outset of the franchise, when they were known as the Houston Colt .45s.  The reason?  We don't want, heaven forbid, to have an image of a gun on the front of the uniform.  Because, you know, nothing insites violence in the hearts of rebellious youth quite like seeing a Colt .45 on a jersey.  The image at left shows how the uniform should look; at Uni Watch there's an artist's conception of what the throwback jersey will probably wind up being.

Of course, baseball fans might be willing to chalk that up to Bud Selig; after all, when did the man ever make a good decision?  But, once again, if you thought that, you'd be wrong.  The next one comes from NASCAR, which seems to have some troubles with the General Lee (the car from Dukes of Hazzard) making appearances at races this season.  The reason - well, I probably don't have to tell you.  It's the presence of the Confederate flag on the car's rooftop.

This idea of airbrushing history to eliminate the things we find objectionable is profoundly offensive, not to mention an absolute falsehood.  Imagine, for example, the famous scene from Gone With the Wind in which we see the tattered Confederate flag flying over the battlefield hospital.  Now suppose we Photoshopped the flag out, so that only the injured soldiers remain.  Artistically, would the scene still have the impact that it has in the original?  More important, is the scene more or less historically accurate?  I don't think anyone would argue that elimniating the flag makes the scene look better; moreover, try to imagine a military camp that didn't fly its army's flag.
Abraham Lincoln contended that states could not seced; ergo, there never was a nation called the Confederate States of America.  As such, the Stars and Bars are a part of this nation's history.  You can't airbrush it out, no matter how hard you might try.  And you shouldn't be able to outlaw it, either - it is, odious as some might see it, a form of protected speech.

Likewise, there was indeed a baseball team that was called the Houston Colt .45s.  We can't go back and retroactively name them the Astros, especially since it wouldn't explain why the team was called Astros two years before the construction of the stadium after which they were named.  And if you're not going to acknowledge the team's roots in an accurate manner, why bother at all?

We used to chide the Communists for airbrushing out the images of figures who had fallen into disgrace.  You can't change history, we said.  Apparently the message never reached some people.  And a public which is already too stupid when it comes to American history is even more the poorer for it.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On the 8-Olympiad Anniversary of a famous moment . . .

This should be a Classic Sports column, but considering the importance of the former video and the importance of the latter, they are coinciding with each other.

February 22, 1980, at Olympic Center, now known as Herb Brooks Arena. We've heard the famous finish, but have rarely hard the crucial moment of Al Michaels' famous call, which was edited for broadcast.

In 2006, Disney (by then the parent company of American Broadcasting) traded Mr. Michaels to Universal (owned by General Electric and Vivendi; in 2011, it is now in control of Comcast and General Electric) for Walt Disney's first character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was owned by Universal.

Opera Wednesday

OK, so this isn't strictly speaking an opera post. Nonetheless, it does have a connection to opera. Therefore, it's good enough for me. And since I'm the editor, that's really all that matters, anyway.

Actually, it reads more like one of Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" pieces.  It concerns the composer Leonard Kastle, who died last year.  As seen on the left, Kastle was the composer of the opera Deseret, about which we wrote a couple of years ago.  The producer of that telecast, Warren Steibel, was better known as the producer of William F. Buckley's Firing Line.  (The fact that Buckley was a conservative and Steibel a liberal is a great story in and of itself).

When Steibel was given $150,000 by a friend in order to make a movie, he turned to his friend Kastle for ideas.  Together, they came up with The Honeymoon Killers, based on the story of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, known as the Lonely Hearts Killers.  So far, so good.  Kastle wrote the scrpit.  The director that Steibel hired, a a newcomer named Martin Scorsese (!  Yes, that Marty Scorsese), didn't work out so well - Steibel accused him of taking an entire afternoon to film a beer can, and fired him. Eventually, unlikely as it may seem, Kastle ended up directing the picture, his only work as a movie director.  Even more unlikely, the movie wound up a cult classic.

Kastle remains best known as a composer and director of musical productions.  The Honeymoon Killers, however, remains his best-known work.  And you can't tell its story without tying in William F. Buckley Jr. and Martin Scorsese.  And now you know the rest of the story.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Charles Anthony, R.I.P.

New Orleans native Charles Anthony Caruso (he did not use his last name on stage), who sang in 2,928 performances of the Metropolitan Opera in a career of over six decades as a tenor (including a role at 80) in mostly minor roles, died Wednesday at his home in Tampa, Florida, of kidney failure at 82. His career included over one hundred parts in various operas, mostly minor but one as Rodolfo in Puccini's "La boheme" in 1959. To prevent comparisions with another tenor with the same surname, he dropped his surname in performance. He is survived by his wife Eleanor, a sister, three children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wish I'd written that

He did every job that came his way, including going home once the job was done. The French poet Chateaubriand put it well: ‘Search the forests where Washington’s sword shone: What do you find there? Tombs? No — a world.’”

Richard Brookhiser on George Washington 

Opinions and more

Religious Persecution.  Here we go again. Another round of liberal legislators ramming down “redefinition of marriage” laws to eliminate “man and woman” and “husband and wife,” and replacing them with “Spouse A” and “Spouse B”. A group of religious leaders noted marriage counselors cannot be accredited without recognising these false “relationships,” and special benefits for properly married employees must also be given to sexual deviants. Furthermore, there have been cases where people were fired for violations of moral character when an employer fired an employee for having an illegal marriage that, in South Carolina, violate Sections 20-1-10, 20-1-15 of state law and Article XVII, Section 15 of the state constitution. Churches cannot block their venues from sexual deviant activists who want to hold their ceremonies, and churches cannot sponsor adoption agencies because of their Biblical teachings violate the humanism as the state religion standard.  Various ministers speak out here.  Here are comments from the Archdiocese of New York.

So let me see here. We have schools promoting holidays for Harvey Milk, César Chávez, Vladimir I. Lenin, and other figures of the Left (if you don't be careful, we'll see a birthday celebration for this esteemed Thug in Chief before long), but guess whose birthday is not even observed in schools this weekend, as should be the case? That's right, George Washington, the father of the country. Have we fallen to this low of a standard?

Dress Properly! Controversy at CPAC erupted over a Hotair video when a reporter (Tina Korbe) was found wearing a skirt extremely short that she was shown pulling it down during an interview. When being at an event, please dress professionally!

Debra Saunders on Occupy Oakland's stupidity.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Retro TV Friday

Last week was the 50th anniversary of one of the landmark events in "early" television - Jackie Kennedy's tour of the White House.  It was such a big deal that CBS and NBC aired it simultaneously, and ABC planned to before cancelling for budgetary reasons.

Television Obscurities has a very good writeup on this famous program, in which many Americans got to see the people's house for the first time.  (I know that Charles Collingwood refers to it as the president's house, but we should always remember that it belongs to us - the president merely rents it for four years at a time.)

And I'm reminded once again that I never have understood the appeal of Jackie Kennedy - but, different strokes for different folks.   

Friday, February 10, 2012

Retro TV Friday

This week, It's About TV takes a look at an unusual program -  a football game televised on November 23, 1963.  That's right - the day after JFK's death.  Check it out. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Opera Wednesday

Lego Tosca. Need I say anything more? Although, given the quality of productions from the last few years (yes, that means you, Met Opera), this is actually pretty good.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ben Gazzara, R.I.P.

About Ben Gazzara, three memories:

First, of course, was Run For Your Life.  Now, I don't have clear memories of it - I was, after all, only five or six when it was on.  But I remember him running, always running.  And lying in the back of an ambulance.  And sitting next to someone lying in the back of an ambulance.  And that he was supposed to be dying, but he never seemed to look any different.  And that his dying didn't have anything to do with him having been in the back of the ambulance.*  But I do recall that I liked the show, even at five or six.

*And an opening title scene that looked as if it had been shot on the Bonneville Salt Flats.  But that may also have had something to do with Craig Breedlove, who was breaking the land speed record at the time, and who I watched on Wide World of Sports. 

Then there was a two-part TV movie, The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald.  This was a movie that speculated on what would have happened had Oswald not been shot by Jack Ruby but lived to stand trial.  Gazzara was the prosecuting attorney, and Lorne Greene the defense attorney.  (John Pleshette, in his pre-Knots Landing days, was Oswald, for what it's worth.)  At the time, back in 1978, I was inclined to buy into the JFK assassination conspiracies - it seemed like an exciting thing to believe in.  And that was the crux of the movie, that Oswald had been part of a conspiracy, that Gazzara was relentless in his efforts to prove Oswald's guilt, and that Greene was desperate to get his client off - without, as it happened, Oswald's cooperation.  I also remembered that Oswald was kept in a glass booth in the courtroom, ala Adolf Eichmann.  A nice historical touch, I thought, since Eichmann's trial occurred in 1961, and would have been a strong influence on an Oswald trial in 1964. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Another mangled one!

The recent buzz over Steven Tyler's entry into The Daly Planet Star Mangled Banner of the Year, the first entrant in the 2012 contest, reminded me that we have seen it before with him, as we remember at the 2001 Indianapolis 500 when he did an equally pathetic rendition that sent the Indy 500 people screaming for the exits, INDYCAR teams befuddled, and Coca-Cola 600 media at Lowe's laughing at this no-talent. Obviously, when names such as Rich, Briggs, and LaRoche are gold standards, there is no way I could even stoop to this level.

CBS, which aired the AFC Championship Game in question, buys more daytime programming from Idol producer Radio Television Luxembourg than even Fox, and the majority of their non-news daytime programming is controlled by the German television network, as their two hours of current versions of classic game shows is greater than the hour and a half of daytime dramas from Sony (the only network with two daytime dramas). The bigger scare I thought was because Mr. Tyler is involved with RTL Group, it could affect the network considering both The Price Is Right (1972 - RTL acquired the show when it acquired Pearson plc's television arm in 2000) and Let's Make a Deal (2009; RTL, long a holder of foreign licences, acquired the franchise earlier that year) are from RTL, and both game shows are five days a week, 39 weeks a year of original programming.

These rockers cannot sing and with the Budweiser Shootout just two weeks away, need to be called for a visit to the Oval Office. There's a consultation flag waving for Mr. Tyler, and Dr. LaRoche is glad to have him in her office. I write this hours from XLVI -- hoping that we don't have another idiot performance!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Retro TV Friday

This could just as well be Classic Sports Thursday, for that matter, although the game itself is no classic. This is perhaps one of the oldest extant college football television broadcasts: from September 29, 1951.

A few notes: it's the opening game of the season (on September 29! They only played 10 games at this point), which Notre Dame wins 48-6 (Indiana is bad as usual; rare enough that the Fighting Irish get off to a good start nowadays). According to one of the YouTube comments, the game "was actually a broadcast done by something called the Theater Television Network, which didn't do traditional broadcast to homes, but to theaters, where patrons bought tickets to watch the game on the big screen. TTN began in 1951 by televising Truman's State of the Union address and followed with college basketball games that winter and this Sept. 29 game from South Bend, Indiana. TTN died two years later."  Hmm, sounds like an idea for a future article.

And the announcer? None other than the future anchor of ABC World News Tonight, Frank Reynolds!  Who knew? 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Government regulations at it again: the wimping of America

In 2000, a day after leading all 300 laps at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Loudon, New Hampshire, Jeff Burton was scheduled to make a speaking engagement in Atlanta when between the airport and the speaking venue, a tyre failed and the party was stranded. With an option to call a taxi or a representative of the firm organising the appearance, Mr. Burton refused, telling his group that he was riding, "We're not going to call ahead to get picked up. We can change this." It took eighteen minutes, but the entire traveling group followed the race driver's orders. He responded, "We had the best eighteen-minute pit stop you can imagine. We went in first and came out 843rd."

Now, with the fuel economy standards imposed by years of liberal activism, situations such as Mr. Burton's are disappearing. The American Automobile Association warned with new fuel economy standards requiring greater fuel efficiency, the next thing to go is the spare tyre, jack, and wrench, which can be 15kg or greater of weight savings to reach new federal standards. Some have just an air pump, while others have nothing.

This report warns that if there was a situation such as Mr. Burton's in many modern cars, the only thing left is to call a wrecker with a tyre ordered from random to do the job. Government created wimps who cannot do what is needed is the goal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Opera Wednesday: Brava, Ashley!

On an Opera Thursday column last year, we used her rendition of "Let the Bright Seraphim" from Händel's Samson at Governess Haley's to reference the opera aria. I've attended a few of her opera performances, and had the chance (Beethoven's Mass in C Major, 2010) to perform with her. I received wonderful news over the weekend that Ashley Briggs had won the South Carolina Regional Qualifier for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and is advancing to the Southeast Regional in Winnipeg, Manitoba!

I've been honoured to have sung with her in Mass in C Major, and express my congratulations!

Brava, Ashley! On to WPG!
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