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.
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