Thursday, December 19, 2013

Classic Sports Thursday

I was five years old at the time of the 1965 Bluebonnet Bowl, played between Tennessee and Tulsa in Houston. I had no great rooting interest in the game - at that age, I probably didn't root for anyone - and yet it must have made an impression on me.  For one thing, I found a TV Guide clipping on it in one of my old scrapbooks.  More significantly, I had a clear recollection not only of the game being played in a driving rain, but of one of the teams actually changing their jerseys at halftime so that it might be easier for people to tell the two muddy teams apart.

Well, you know how the mind can play tricks, especially when you're talking about something that happened almost 50 years ago with very little notice, so it was with a sense of vindication that I ran across this clip the other day - the game footage of the 1965 Bluebonnet Bowl, which indeed confirmed my memories.  Not a particularly notable game, but great fun to watch nonetheless.  See how much more interesting football can be when you don't remove the elements from the equation?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Retro TV Monday - This week in TV Guide: December 16, 1961

It's a week until Christmas, and this issue of TV Guide is full of programs we’d never see on network television today.

Take, for example, NBC’s Project 20 documentary series, which on Wednesday night presents “The Coming of Christ.”  “The life and ministry of Christ and prophecies of His Coming were constant themes for painters of the 15th to 17th Centuries.  This taped, half-hour show, first seen last December, uses photographs of the works of many of these painters – to depict ‘The Coming of Christ.’”

A few thoughts on this: first, if a program like this were on today, it would be on PBS or one of the shrinking number of “arts” shows on cable, and the emphasis would be on the art, rather than the religion.* The sidebar ad underscores the idea that art is being used as a vehicle for the greater religious event: “’Project 20’ brings art treasures to life to tell their deeply moving story.”  This is reinforced by narrator Alexander Scourby’s reading of passages from the Old and New Testaments as the pictures are shown (in a “’still-pictures-to-action’ technique [used] to create the illusion of movement”; similar, I suppose, to what Ken Burns uses today).  It’s also interesting to note the capitalization of the pronoun “His” as well as “Coming,” and later capitalizations of “Virgin” and “Child.”  Again, this denotes a respect for religion that isn’t seen as often today, but was taken for granted back then even in secular publications.

*I say this because TVG clearly labels this as “religion” and not, say, “art.”  I think programs such as Sister Wendy’s undoubtedly had religious overtones, but were still packaged as art documentaries. 

Alexander Scourby had a fantastic voice; I wish I could track down a copy of this show, though an audio version is available, as well as a book tie-in.

Immediately following Project 20 is Perry Como’s Christmas show, which includes a scene in which “Perry reads the story of the first Christmas” to children from the production staff.  That’s very similar to Friday’s Bell Telephone Hour, where hostess Jane Wyatt “recites the story of the Nativity from the Gospel of St. Luke.”  Now, I’m not going to get into the larger question of a “War on Christmas” or anything like that; it’s simply to point out, as this blog is want to do, of how we can see the culture’s evolution through the programs on TV.  Undeniably, we’re at a point now where there seems to be a reluctance to even use the word “Christmas,” let alone discuss the religious ramifications it contains.  And while there are a lot of Hallmark- and Lifetime-style “Christmas” movies out there, they almost always deal with it as a secular event, perhaps with some quasi-touchy-feely “spirituality” wrapped up in its message.

Not so in 1961, where religion was seen as an integral part of Christmas.  Sure, there were variety shows such as Garry Moore’s and Red Skelton’s (both this week) that focus more on the secular, celebratory aspects of Christmas, but the larger point is that even within that context, it would not have been uncommon for the host or one of the guests to say or sing or otherwise do something that contained an explicitly religious message.

Perhaps it’s the fact that New Year’s isn’t far away, but I’m reminded of a song by Louden Wainwright III shortly after The New York Times building in Times Square (hence the name of the square) was renamed Allied Chemical Building.  “Have you been to Allied Chemical Square?/It used to be called Times, but times have changed.”

Indeed the times have changed.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Amahl redux?

While penetrating myself through the first hour of NBC's The Sound of Music Live with Carrie Underwood in the lead role (I had to be in bed early because of another hard 6 AM workout), I read many criticisms of it compared to the 1965 movie, and much of the problem with the live event was the majority of viewers do not understand the difference between live theatre and a motion picture that is filmed and edited.

The biggest observations of the performance were twofold; one, the use of pre-recorded soundtracks, which Arturo Toscanini would have never approved. Mr. Toscanini was the conductor of NBC's orchestra until the 1950's. This is a problem we are seeing everywhere today, even in churches, which forced me to leave our church choir. The second observation was that it had roughly been fifty years since NBC had commissioned live musical theatre for television. Now Fox had commissioned a live Roc and NBC had live ER episodes, but they were just episodes for certain occasions.

For a generation that hasn't seen a live musical theatre event, and do not understand the importance of NBC's annual (1951-63) performances of Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, including myself, that we have discussed on the blog, the live staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein's big musical was a throwback to that era. I can understand the criticism of the lead role being former Pop Idol Carrie Underwood, but other than that, the larger issue is something I hope will return to television annually, and that is live theatre. Is this the modern-day Amahl? Might we have a return to live theatre on television the way it was, with live orchestras too?   

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An All-State Garage Rock Band for Churches?

I was reading a list in church regarding the youth music traditional Honours and All-State choruses in churches, and the All-State orchestra. Considering I had a cup of coffee (as they say in sports) through youth education in parochial school, and had a piano class in college to comply with art mandates, and did not take private voice lessons until I was 26, and sang in his first "true" choral gig at 31 (discarding my church choir because of its abusive tactics against musicians by advancing karaoke, which I referenced church musicians were treated as Powerade bottles), I consider how it would have been if I had started music lessons at a younger age.

What unfortunately caught my attention was a newer All-State group, the "All-State Praise Team," which in postmodern doublespeak is code for "garage rock band spoken here," where the church is turned into a club where rock music plays. We go from the Hill, Kinosian, Nakahara, Nagel, Curry, Hein, and other distinguished musicianship of trained musicians, the LaRoche, Gunnels, Harrison, Hungerford, Will, Stallard, Cuttino, Fox, Briggs, and other trained vocalists that sing timeless sacred song that is sound in both doctrine and theology, to the garage bands wailing the latest from the Michael Jackson library (those who are new here should understand that this references the 2011 acquisition of leading modern worship church publisher EMI by a consortium of the Michael Jackson Family Trust, their music publishing partner Sony ("Sony ATV"), Blackstone, and Mubadala -- yes, the hat sponsor on the Scuderia Ferrari (#&%^%#! team), often lacking any sound theology (some notable heresy houses have their own music publishing houses in-house, as Australia's notorious prosperity gospel house has one, and many churches use their material, which was even performed on a popular television programme in the States). At this note, Haugen and Haas would be perfectly acceptable in the church, which is something that my Catholic friends object (and yes, the problem is notorious even in Protestant circles; Haugen and Haas is found in the 2008 Baptist Hymnal, which is dominated by material from the Michael Jackson Library, most of which became part of such after the 2011 acquisitions).

Why have we dumbed down our standards where morbidly unhealthy rock music (morbidly unhealthy both in body, as we learned about one musician at a church recently, and in teachings they offer) is regarded as better than a musician whose is a full 140.6 Ironman race finisher? The songs of the postbellum church are violently toxic with light material based on feelings, and not the serious, wholesome material we've learned including the setting of the Nicene Creed and songs from the Bible that have come from our choral training. In a modern church, if I walked into the room with my violin, piano, and vocal friends to practice serious music, we would be laughed off by the postmodern emotional types because of a hate, especially being taught today, of a certain group ("dead white males") that is a popular teaching in today's Common Core (which, if you've studied the issue, you will discover that it drops people's academic levels down two entire grades, or worse).

It seems when an All-State Praise Team is much easier to find when an appreciation of Biblical Doctrine and Theology are sacrificed in favour of the beat and feelings, and the "look at me" type popular music vocalists and musicians have supplanted sound teammates who sing sound doctrine and theology in groups of 30-100 voices of music that matter. At this rate, will there be serious musicians left out cold when the garage band is praised, and trained church musicians are now mocked, when All-State garage bands are more popular than orchestras for youth?

We are teaching a bad lesson to this generation when the banal that requires no thought replaces material that requires serious reading of God's Word.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Carrie hasn't hated herself for loving you, and yet you do this?

W hile reading wires this weekend, I was not amused when reports surfaced people were packing tents near major big-box retailers, camping for prime seats, preparing themselves for the time the stores open before (in the Eastern time zone) Carrie Underwood “hates herself for loving you” in an attempt to purchase opening hour specials that are good while supplies last (as few as five of a specific item for those specials, but it usually is between 5-15 of a specific item). As these events start to pile up, it reminds me of people who sleep outside venues awaiting the opening of ticket sales for major popular musicians (one country star consistently sold out Colonial Life Arena annually that he moved his concert to the big stadium, which was not a sellout, but had far more tickets sold than any of his sellouts) or major events including sporting events, those who camp out at specialty stores to purchase the next big album, gaming device, or even those awaiting the 0001 premiere of the next big movie (sadly, we don't have any movie theatres in this city anymore).

What virtue is patience?

(I've run ahead, and gone too slow, I've got to be still know, and wait upon His will now . . 1)

1. Nathan DiGesare, Bruce Sudano, Kathy Troccoli. “A Different Road”. Sony/ATV Publishing LLC. 1998.

And worst of all, these stores are turning into Krzyzewskiville. One of my best friends (pictured from the 2013 Carolina Cup Steeplechase) will understand the little “city” of such nomenclature, and unfortunately, I am seeing Krzyzewskivilles (see if you can pronounce the name!) start around this time for these stores, which should never be open on a day we give thanks to God, while many of us are eating (if we can still eat) dinner following the top day for running road races in the year, beating even Independence Day. See you on foot for a few thousand metres and on the barre! I won't be piled up in those little sardine cans outside the stores before Steel City and Mr. Poe have their battle and we hear Carrie "hate herself for loving you". Quoth that black aviary if I was thinking about shopping on Thanksgiving night, “Nevermore!”

If it was a drag show, Santa Claus and reindeer would be sitting in one car, a Pilgrim and a happy turkey sitting in the other car, while the reindeer launches the car with the first amber on, the car is moving with its front wheels up, while the turkey is sitting in the driver's seat of the second car, watching as the second amber is on, and is waiting. The red cherry is up in Santa and the reindeer's lane. That will teach a serious lesson when people are no longer giving thanks to God anymore what has happened.

Have we lost Thanksgiving? Have we lost the importance of calming ourselves down, thanking God for what He has blessed us over the past year, and gathering with family over a dinner in a way the Pilgrims thanked God for His blessings 392 years ago on Plymouth Plantation?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Retro TV Monday - This Week in TV Guide: November 23, 1963

This week begins as last week ended, with all programming being cancelled in the wake of John Kennedy's assassination.

Minnesota was scheduled to take on Wisconsin on CBS' college football game of the week on Saturday; instead, TV viewers saw dignitaries arriving at the White House to view the President's body laying in repose in the East Room.  As they arrived, their shoes splashed in the water from the torrential downpour that soaked Washington that day.  The game was postponed to Thanksgiving Day, though it was not televised.

Instead of Glenn Ford and Red Buttons starring in Imitation General on NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies, NBC broadcast the latest news from Washington and Dallas, including reports that a receipt had been found for the mail order rifle used to kill Kennedy.  In the meantime, future Vice President Hubert Humphrey talked of Kennedy's legacy and Johnson's challenges, and replays of Johnson's work day were shown late into the night.

On Sunday, the American Football League cancelled its entire slate of games, while the National Football League carried on as scheduled, without TV coverage.  KMBC, the ABC affiliate, was supposed to show the game between the home town Chiefs and the New York Jets from the Polo Grounds, while just a few miles away the New York Giants were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals at Yankee Stadium, a game that would have been on CBS' affiliate.  NBC, without sports on Sunday afternoon, had scheduled a repeat of Gian Carlo Menotti's opera Labrynth, the story of a bride and groom searching for the key to life, on NBC Opera Theatre.  Nothing could have compared to what viewers actually saw: the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Dallas City Jail, the solemn procession of the President's body from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, where it would lay in state in the Rotunda, the images of people filing past the casket while funereal music played in the background.  On CBS, rather than seeing a Grammy salute to "The Best on Record" with Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Henry Mancini and Bing Crosby*, viewers listened to Dan Rather, in Dallas, talking about the man who killed the man who killed Kennedy, Jack Ruby.

*And Vaughn Meader, whose JFK impression made the album The First Family an award-winning smash.  His career evaporated after that.  I don't know if "The Best on Record" was ever broadcast, but if so I would assume Meader's section was cut out.

On ABC, Edward P. Morgan is heard to comment to Howard K. Smith, "You keep thinking, Howard, that this is a dream from which you will awake - but you won't."  NBC aired a commemorative episode of the British satire program That Was The Week That Was, a tribute to Kennedy.

Read the entire piece here. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

On November 22

One of my first jobs upon moving to Dallas was at a company whose offices were on Stemmons Freeway, just across the street from Parkland Hospital. As a matter of fact, I could see it every day outside the window facing my desk.

On days when I had to drive downtown, my route back to the office would take me down Main Street and then onto Elm, with a turn past the Sixth Floor Museum on the way to the Triple Underpass before getting onto the freeway. The Sixth Floor Museum is housed in the former Texas School Book Depository, and as I passed the building I would drive over two white "X"s that had been painted on the pavement.  (They've since been paved over by the city.)

Dallas is a city full of history, and historical landmarks.  Last Monday night I attended a premier of a documentary on the police capture of Lee Harvey Oswald.  The screening was held in the Texas Theatre in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, the theater where Oswald was apprehended after murdering police officer J.D. Tippet.  Several retired DPD officers took part in a panel discussion afterward, including men who knew Tippet personally.  One of them, Jim Leavelle, would be familiar to anyone who's seen the iconic picture of Oswald at the moment of his murder by Jack Ruby - he's the policeman in the light-colored suit who's handcuffed to Oswald.  His granddaughter, Kate Griendling, was the director of the documentary.

The city in which we live, Irving, is home to Ruth Paine's house.  She was the Quaker housewife who befriended Marina Oswald and took her in after she left her husband.  It is the house where Oswald slept on November 21, the night before the assassination.  It's now a museum.  A street en route to the Texas Theater, Beckley, is where the rooming house was in which Oswald lived.

The Sixth Floor itself is a remarkable experience. The actual window from which Oswald fired his shots is glassed off, preserved as a diorama of sorts, frozen in time to look as it did on November 22, 1963. However, a guest to the Museum can stand at a nearby window and get the sense of just how close Elm Street is to the building; a trip to the seventh floor allows the visitor to stand in the window directly below the sniper's nest.  A walk outside the building reveals the Xs painted on the street - the point at which the bullets struck Kennedy.  Farther down the sidewalk is a grassy knoll, known forever after as The Grassy Knoll.

As my words suggest, I believe that Oswald was the one and only assassin of John Kennedy.  Even if you don't believe that, however, there can be no denying the power of standing in some of the most iconic locations in American history.  Though I do not consider myself particularly well-traveled, I have visited the homes of Washington, Adams and Jefferson; I've stood on the ground where the first shot was fired at the final battle of the Revolutionary War at Yorktown.  I've seen where the tattered American flag flew as Francis Scott Key composed the words to the Star-Spangled Banner, and I've dipped my hands in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Texas, home to the presidential libraries of both Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush, offer future glimpses of additional historical artifacts.

Someone - I don't know who - once wrote that in Dealey Plaza, it is always November 22.  In all the times I've driven downtown, and driven past Dealey Plaza on the way to the Triple Underpass, I've never failed to see a crowd.  Some of them look at the Xs in the street, some stand on the Grassy Knoll (helpfully identified by a banner reading "Grassy Knoll"), some look up at the window where Oswald stood.  Last weekend we were downtown for the official lighting of the Christmas tree, and with all the festivities going on, lights and bands and face painting and vendors, there was still a crowd at Dealey Plaza.  It is a place, not so much frozen in time, but where time stands still.

And yet there's something about standing in the Book Depository (let's call it that for what it represents), on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy, an event that occurred (unlike those other events I mentioned) within my lifetime.  I don't have any memories of that time save the vague hint of a hazy recollection of a fleeting image which a three-year-old might have glimpsed as he was waiting impatiently for his cartoons.  That, I suspect, is what makes this different.

Standing inside that building, looking down on the street, hearkens back to a time that is 1963, and yet not 1963.  It is, in fact, my time, an era in which my first impressions were formed and first memories were captured.  It causes other memories, associated not by place or event but by era, to come to the fore.  It is not 1963 in Dallas, but the Sears store on Lake Street in Minneapolis, the building where I attended grade school, the sense of riding in my grandmother's car at night in the city of my birth, Minneapolis, as the neon lights marked out used car lots and Christmas decorations hung over intersections.  The 1965 World Series featuring our Minnesota Twins, the Texas tower shooting in 1966, MLK, RFK, the first Super Bowl, the moon landing - that's what I see standing at the window on the sixth floor.

It all sounds quite romantic, and there's really nothing romantic about it.  The Sixties were a crummy decade, full of violence and unrest, rebellion and license.  And yet, to paraphrase Charles Schulz' Linus, it was a good decade too, because it was the decade in which I was born.  At least that made it good for me.

What it is, is history.  Not just the history of John Kennedy's death, or for that matter his life.  Not even the history of this country, although it's certainly a major part of it.  It is the history of me, the history of us, of all those who posses the power to see that lifetime in the memories generated by a moment, a place, an event. It calls for reflection, the type lost to those who don't have much interest in anything that happened before their birth, or more than 15 minutes ago.

There are many who complain that too much attention is paid to JFK and his assassination, that it's a symptom of the narcissism of the baby boomer generation.  There's probably more than a little truth to this. Reading some of the things written in the immediate aftermath of Kennedy's death are, to be kind, a little embarrassing, full of purple prose and overemoting.*  Knowing what we do now about Kennedy's personal life underlines the situation, but the fact remains that even had Kennedy been a saint, the words written about him would have been overdoing it.

*Variously, a "great Christian," "one of our greatest presidents ever," "a kind, decent man," "a brilliant genius," and more.

But as Rick Brookhiser wrote at NRO earlier this week, those alive at the time of William McKinley's assassination in 1901 had only to remember back 20 years to the assassination of James Garfield in 1881. Many of  them might have lived in 1865, when Lincoln had been assassinated.  That made three American Presidents to experience violent death over the span of 36 years.  By the time of Kennedy's death in 1963, it had been 62 years since such an assassination, and very few remembered McKinley as anyone other than a figure in the history books.  Despite the Second World War, despite Korea, it was a generation ill prepared for the shock of a presidential assassination, especially one of a man who appeared as young and vital as JFK.  As Marc Ryan put it to me in our recent interview, while those past disasters might have belonged to other generations, the death of John Kennedy was that generation's disaster.  Just as there would be another generation scarred by Challenger and Columbia, and 9/11, and events we haven't even imagined yet. So I think we have to be gentle in thinking about that generation's apparent obsession.  As Brookhiser writes, "it will not be real to you until you have watched it yourself."

That doesn't mean that one has to subscribe to the more melodramatic, emotional assessments of it.  We don't know that Kennedy would have kept us from greater involvement in Vietnam.  There's quite a lot to suggest that civil rights legislation, passed as a tribute to Kennedy, might not have been as successful in a second Kennedy term generation of 1963.  In fact, as author Jeff Greenfield and others have suggested, Kennedy's scandals might well have come to light in a second term, and in that case we'd have an entirely different impression of Camelot.

Speaking of Camelot, I've written before about James Pierson's Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, which attempts to explain how the generation most wounded by Kennedy's death would up embracing the very causes which his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, espoused.  Pierson thinks that Kennedy's death, and the adoption of the "Camelot" legend encouraged by Jackie Kennedy, was the defining moment in the collapse of the world as we knew it.  I've only lived in Dallas for six months, but it's been long enough for me to have formed a protectiveness about this city; while there were extremists among the right-wing elements in Dallas, there is no evidence that this atmosphere was measurably worse than some other Southern states - an atmosphere that cannot be understood out of context of the historical times - and had no influence on a Communist who hated America and sought to assassinate the Cold Warrior whose policies he opposed.

Dallas is not to blame, nor is America.  The Rolling Stones were wrong; we didn't kill John Kennedy.  It was Lee Harvey Oswald.

Idon't apologize for my interest in the death of John F. Kennedy, or some of the other news events of the past that have the ability to transfix me.  I don't consider myself a sentimentalist, or a wishful thinker, I don't whitewash the past or try to rewrite history.  I liked John Kennedy's style, and some of his policies, but I don't have much time for John Kennedy the man, and I have no time whatsoever for the attempts to sanctify him.

But I understand something of that need, the desire of people to attach a significance to his life and death. Because it's a way of giving our own lives and deaths a significance; if the death of a great man such as the President of the United States lacks meaning, what chance to any of us have?

Shortsighted perhaps, but also human.  So as we look back on these two days, November 22, 1963 and November 22, 2013, we look back at much more than what happened that day, and this one.  In remembering this anniversary, as with September 11, we remember the drama of human life and our part in it.  Thus has it been, thus will it always be. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

So you think you don't know opera

Iknow a lot of people who think they don't know anything about opera - who, in fact, are quite sure they hate opera.  I'm usually able to confuse them by playing the overtures to The Barber of Seville (Bugs Bunny cartoons) or William Tell (The Lone Range) but, as Telegraph columnist Tim Wong points out, even modern operas have beautiful, hummable arias.

I think all of the pieces excerpted in Wong's article are eminently enjoyable - and he doesn't even mention "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" from The Threepenny Opera, which we might recognize as "Mack the Knife."  See, you know more about opera than you think!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Conspiracy Buffs Wear Their Theories On Their Sleeves (and Heads) at Annual Convention

Attendees Dress Up as Favorite Assassins to Support Theories

(DALLAS, TEXAS – November 17) -- The 50th Annual “JFK Conspiracy Convention” wrapped up today in Dallas with the awarding of prizes in several categories, including “Best Assassination Costume” and “Most Plausible Conspiracy Newcomer.” The three-day convention, held at the Wyndham Love Field Hotel, attracted over 2,000 conspiracy buffs from around the world to exchange conspiracy theories, compare notes, and demonstrate the latest in assassination fashion.

Scholarly papers and presentations were given on a variety of topics and theories, all seeking to identify the true assassin or assassins of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 as he traveled through a motorcade in downtown Dallas. For three days, the lobby and meeting rooms at the Wyndham was a colorful swirl of activity, as many of the participants came dressed as their favored conspiracy personality. Anyone walking through the Wyndham might find themselves standing next to any one of a number of “suspects,” including Secret Service agents, CIA operatives, FBI investigators, Mafia hitmen, disgruntled Cuban exiles, disgruntled Cuban Communists, and even familiar faces such as Lyndon B. Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy as President, New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw, and the late President’s widow, Jacqueline.

Mr. Cy Coe, 26, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, showed off his original costume, a shapeless, fuzzy green hoodie that he said represented the infamous “Grassy Knoll” from which many conspiracy experts feel one or more shooters fired on that fateful day. Mr. Coe’s outfit took second place in the “Architectural Feature” portion of the competition, losing the prestigious Stone-Garrison award to a man from California dressed as the Texas School Book Depository. “You call that a costume?” Mr. Coe grumbled, telling observers that “anyone can cut a hole in a box, draw a few windows on the side, and call themselves the Book Depository” and adding that the winner should have been disqualified anyway, since the building was obviously a “Potemkin Village” constructed by the CIA to divert suspicion from the shooter on the knoll.

The Abraham Zapruder award for “best plausible conspiracy theory not already in wide circulation” was given to Ms. Belle Freeh of Orlando, Florida, for her presentation alleging that the news department of CBS-TV was responsible for masterminding the assassination in order to boost ratings for Walter Cronkite’s evening news. According to the 19-year old raven-haired beauty, the network was desperate to catch up to NBC’s dynamic news team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, and realized that “only a national tragedy which would focus the eyes of the nation on a lone anchorman, making him into an internationally respected authority and eventually the most trusted man in America,” could save the network. Ms. Freeh was unable to accept her award in person, having left to catch an early flight for an upcoming conference in Roswell, New Mexico regarding attempts by the Illuminati, Opus Dei and the Freemasons to dominate the world economy .

Ms. Freeh narrowly beat out another popular theory by Dr. Runson Amebula of Higgins Bluff, Montana, who argued that NASA had been behind the slaying in order to preserve funding for manned space exploration after JFK discovered their plans to fake pictures of a manned moon landing set to take place sometiem before the end of the decade.

But not everyone was caught up in the festivities, and as the evening wound to a close a reporter noticed a young man standing alone in the corner, ignored by virtually everyone. The man, who identified himself as Mr. William Parker of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was outfitted in a white t-shirt and blue jeans, said that he had come dressed as Lee Harvey Oswald. “Nobody wants anything to do with me,” Mr. Parker sighed. “I’ve been accused of being a government agent, planting bugs in people’s rooms, and even having arrived here in a black helicopter. A lot of people told me they didn’t even think I was a real person. I’d have had better luck dressing up as Santa – at least then people would believe in me.” When asked if he’d be back for next year’s convention, Mr. Parker said ”no way,” and added that it had been one of the worst weekends of his life. “Next year I’m going to stick to the Trilateral Commission Convention,” he added. “Those people really know how to party.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Retro TV Monday - This Week in TV Guide, November 16, 1963

On Friday night's episode of Route 66, "After he stops Nola Neilsen from committing suicide, Linc becomes romantically involved with her - which disturbs the girl's possessive brother."  Meanwhile, on 77 Sunset Strip, "Chuck Gates has been sentenced to death for murder, but his father, big-time politician 'Boss' Gates, employs Stu to prove his son was framed."  And Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre presents John O'Hara's "It's Mental Work," adapted by Rod Serling: "Too long a bar owner, Ernie Wigman wants to sell out, preferably to his bartender Rich.  Rich has a yen for the bar; he just hasn't got the cash."

In sports, the Los Angeles Lakers take on the San Francisco Warriors from the Cow Palace, and at Madison Square Garden Mauro Mina and Allen Thomas face off in a light-heavyweight bout.  On Jack Paar's prime-time show, Liberace plays the piano while Cassius Clay recites poetry.  Cliff Arquette and dancer Gil Lamb are Steve Allen's guests on Los Angeles' KTLA, while on San Diego's KFMB, the Allen show features jazz pianist George Shearing and singers Howard Keel and Vikki Carr.

Friday morning and afternoon are filled with game shows, soap operas, matinee movies and sitcom reruns - Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Lena Horne wind up a week as the celebrity guests on Password, on Father Knows Best, "Bud dates a beauty-contest winner," and on The Doctors, "Laura breaks her engagement."  Among the late night movies, KTLA is showing Berlin Correspondent, in which "A daring correspondent (Dana Andrews) attempts to sneak out secret information," and KNXT's Late Show is The Big Lift, "The story of the American airlift in 1958 when the Russians blocked off Berlin," starring Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas.

In other words, it's a day pretty much like any other day.  Except, of course, it wasn't.

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dallas to Commemorate JFK Anniversary with "Motorcade" Through Downtown

President, Texas Governor Also Invited to Attend

(DALLAS, TX - November 13)  The The city of Dallas announced plans today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy with a parade through downtown Dallas. President and Mrs. Obama, as well as Texas Governor and Mrs. Perry, have been invited to take part in the “motorcade,” which will begin at Dallas Love Field airport and conclude with a luncheon at Market Center, formerly known as the Dallas Trade Mart.

The announcement by city leaders appeared to mark an end to a bitter dispute between liberal and conservative anniversary committees which had threatened to split the Dallas civic community in two.  Extending invitations to the President and Governor was seen as a fence-mending effort to bring the two factions together for the good of the city.

Path the "motorcade" will take
Dean Buckler, in charge of logistics for the November 22 event, said the “motorcade” would begin at approximately 11:30am, winding its way down Main Street in the downtown area and passing under a so-called “triple underpass” to Market Center, where the luncheon is expected to begin at 12:30pm.

“We think this is an outstanding opportunity for everyone to come together to pay tribute to an unforgettable moment in our city’s history,” Buckler told reporters at a press conference. “There will be many good areas for the public to congregate in order to see the various dignitaries as they drive through the city. People at work will be able to watch from office windows that overlook the route, and there is a sort of grassy hill or knoll downtown that offers an excellent view of the parade for those who wish to stand.”  Weather permitting, the dignitaries will travel in open cars which the city has borrowed from a local dealership, in order for people to get a better look.

The weekend’s events will conclude with a ceremony Sunday morning beginning in the garage of the parking lot at Dallas City Hall. The brief march will wind up at the County Jail, “barring any kind of unforeseen interruption,” Buckler said.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Retro TV Monday - This Week in TV Guide, November 9, 1968

Last week we dabbled in food, sharing a TV Guide recipe for minestrone. This week we go even farther, as Richard Gehman tells us how "You too can be a chef" by watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. You see, Carson makes a perfect companion for the hungry view (and Gehman finds himself, for some unknown reason, starved every time he watches Carson).  Forthwith, Gehman's complete late-night supper, made during a recent episode of Tonight.

Start with the small potatoes, which can be prepared for boiling during Carson's commercial for a new spot remover.  You can do the whole thing from your easy chair while Don Rickles comes on and insults everyone in sight.  As Rickles continues, it's time for you to separate slices of chipped beef, which you've brought to your easy chair along with the spuds.  As Ed McMahon shills for Alpo, take the separated beef to the kitchen, toss the potatoes in a pot for boiling, and while you're there put an eighth of a pound of butter in a frypan which has been preheated to 300°.  Turn up the TV while Sergio Franchi is singing, so you can hear him while toasting two slices of bread and opening a can of peas.  With the next commercial, you can drain the potatoes and toast a couple more slices of bread.  The next guest, possibly George Jessel, allows you to chop a fresh green or red pepper.

When the show pauses for a station break, that's your chance to add two tablespoonfuls of sifted flour to the sizzling butter, stir with a whisk, and add a half teaspoonful of salt, a couple of pinches of dried parsley, a very small dash of oregano and some pepper, preferably fresh-ground.  You can add a half-cup of water while the next singer (probably named Connie) warbles away.  Add the chipped beef to the mixture when shills for a sewer-cleaning device, along with a half-cup of milk, stirring until the mixture bubbles, at which time you include the drained peas.

This whole thing should take you to within about ten minutes of the end of Carson's show.  During the next-to-last commercial, add a tablespoonful of capped black pitted olives, and as Carson interviews his final guest (Mary Martin Mary McCarthy, Mary Healy, or maybe Mary Queen of Scots), you can serve your creamed chipped beef, either on the toast or the potatoes you've put on the side.  Turn off the set.  Eat heartily.

I don't know.  I don't think I can eat that heavy a meal right before bedtime.

Read the rest of the article here.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bad homers make bad sports

Over the years at Our Word, we've been critical of the shouters, screamers, and homers whose goal it seems is to appear on any national sports highlight show with their cheerleading over the radio.

Listening to the end of the South Carolina-Missouri game a couple of weeks ago on radio while I arrived home from the Baroque Soloists concert, I could not believe how unprofessional the radio broadcast (Ellis/Suggs) was during the crazy finish of the game. We don't have the national-style radio broadcasters that used to be everyday. ESPN, in a sad way, changed the culture of how radio broadcasts are done and the result of it was the way the last play was called. I asked if the conferences should have one "regional" or "national" radio crew at each game calling the games, and both teams carrying the one national feed, similar to how Major League Baseball, prior to 1980, mandated one radio crew from national radio to offer the game to both teams' radio networks during the finals. Since fan complaints in 1980, MLB only allows the primary market to have local radio. All other stations in that team's network only has the national radio broadcast. A similar rule in the NFL applies during conference championship games and the league final, where only the primary market can have the local broadcast, and all other stations must carry the national radio feed.

Would having exclusively neutral crews calling conference games and both teams having to carry that broadcast help or hurt the sport? The development of young broadcasters has been on the decline because we've replaced the top talent with homers. South Carolina's dean of the School of Journalism, Charles Bierbauer, would be looking at homers with anger. You wouldn't want homers talking about news issues.

Here's the homer call from Fox Sports Live.  And here's the call from ESPN's coverage.

The homer call is clearly laughing and cheering, and not analysing what happened. The national television call (Joe Tessitore) has unbelief at the missed chip shot, and he saw the technical mistake almost immediately. That's what matters in any sudden incident, and that's what fans need.

There is a clear difference now in sports broadcasting, and the sad thing is that's the problem with sport today. Homers don't make for good broadcasts. A friend of mine said Charlie MacAlexander, who replaced the late Bob Fulton in 1995 and broadcast games until 2002, was much fairer than Todd Ellis. MacAlexander later worked on regional television broadcasts. The time a broadcaster used local radio to climb the ladder from local to regional radio, then regional to national radio, then from radio to television is gone, as it is now homers galore. That is a sad state of affairs now.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Retro TV Monday: This week in TV Guide: November 4, 1967

Back in the day – “the day” in this case being before DVDs, before VHS, before even TCM – there were only two ways to catch classic movies. One was to see them in a revival or art house theater, the other came courtesy of The Late Late Show on local TV.

My personal guide to the classic movie was the Academy Awards program listing that appeared each year in TV Guide. As a studious lad in college, I’d spend the last half-hour or so of each day in the periodicals stacks of the library, going through bound issues of TV Guide from the past dozen or so years, developing the pop culture interests that have stayed with me to this day. The Oscar Close-Up would feature pictures of the nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress, plus a list of the nominees in Picture, Supporting Actor and Actress, Director, and Song, and as a top-line guide to movies, it wasn’t bad. I’d make mental lists of the movies I hadn’t heard of, less well-known movies that struck me as interesting or at least intriguing, and I’d keep an eye out for them when they ran on local TV. I saw a lot of good movies that way – This Sporting Life (with nominees Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts), Séance on a Wet Afternoon (Kim Stanley), Tom Jones (the movie, not the singer – Best Picture of 1963), Becket (Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole), among others. Many of them were not what I expected at all, which increased my personal pleasure.

One of those little-known movies was a British film called The Mark, a bleak story of a man trying to rebuild his life after being released from prison for child molestation. It starred Stuart Whitman, an B-actor better known for television, who’d somehow copped a nomination for Best Actor. He didn't win – Maximilian Schell did, for Judgment at Nuremberg*), but The Mark was an obscure movie that was well worth watching.

*Fun fact: Maximilian Schell’s sister, Maria, was Whitman’s co-star in The Mark.

Stuart Whitman’s on the cover of TV Guide this week for what is probably his best-known role: Marshal Jim Crown in Cimarron Strip, CBS’ 90-minute answer to the mega-Westerns Wagon Train and The Virginian. Actually, Cimarron Strip bears more resemblance to another CBS oater, Gunsmoke – no surprise, since the series is helmed by that show’s former executive producer, Philip Leacock. Whitman hopes Cimarron Strip will be the start of a new stage in his career, which to date has consisted mostly of roles that had originally been intended for others: Darby’s Rangers (Charlton Heston), The Story of Ruth (Stephen Boyd), The Sound and the Fury (Robert Wagner), An American Dream (David Janssen). Even The Mark was inherited from Richard Burton, and despite the nomination, Whitman concedes, “I wasn’t sure I was in the right profession.” He feels that this role “is definitely going to hit me with an image. It’s the image that makes the star. I’m on the brink of the stardom that I’ve always sought and wanted. I wasn’t ready for it before.”

Read the rest of this week's article here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

We knew it

TThis weekend as I write being the start of El Superclásico, the first leg of the huge football derby between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF, it came to my attention news that major subscription television carriers had announced they were adding Al Jazeera America to their systems.

Was it coincidence considering Al Jazeera holds United States rights to Liga BBVA?

Think about it. This derby is easily one of the biggest ratings weekends for Al Jazeera in the United States, with it airing on their most popular channel in the States, BeIn Sport, which we've noted both on this blog and It's About TV, a channel on the rise with the demise of Fox's football and motorsport channels. They held the rights this past season for World Superbike and World Motocross, and with Fox effectively winding down their Supercross coverage after the 2014 season because of FS1's Big East basketball coverage clashing with the first half of the Supercross season, and changes to the Fox MLB coverage taking out the second half, Al Jazeera will take a shot at bidding for Supercross when Feld Motor Sports offers rights bidding for the 2014 Monster Energy Cup and 2015 Supercross seasons [1].

Sen. McCain has been attempting to prohibit the practice of channel bundling, where subscription channels tell providers to carry one channel, you must carry the other channel. This is the strategy I predicted would be Al Jazeera's strategy once they established BeIn. Once BeIn became a larger channel with more clout, as we're seeing now with the second season of football's top stars, and taking advantage of the shutdown of Fox's Charlotte (motorsport) and football operations (though it will restart in 2015 with the Bundesliga and the first of the major tournaments under the 2015-18 and 2019-22 cycles), including carriage of the United States national team's road qualifiers, Al Jazeera is now in the next phase of their expansion strategy. Forcing the carriage of Al Jazeera America as part of bundling BeIn was the next step for Al Jazeera to expand in the United States. Now with the first contract expiring on many outlets, they are now able to build clout to add the channel in the second contract between subscription companies and Al Jazeera.

[1] Because of legal ramifications regarding the breakup of what is now the American Athletic Conference, I had previously referenced the conference as the Catholic Seven (non-FBS schools) until the legal name change was implemented July 1. Feld Motor Sports splits the deal between Fox (rights fee) and CBS (time buy).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Curse at Le Mans?

The 1981 24 Heures du Mans, which here is noted as the only run of the French classic by a motorsport legend from the Florence area, was marred by two fatalities, one a marshal and one (Jean-Louis Lafosse) in a crash caused by mechanical failure on RN138 (now RD338), the four-mile long Ligne Droite des Hunaudières straight that has since been shortened by the two chicanes installed in 1990, that injured two marshals in that crash.

Maria de Villota (left), Sean Edwards (right)
The sad irony came this week following the deaths of former Marussia F1 driver Maria de Villota and Porsche Supercup (F1 undercard series) points leader Sean Edwards days of each other. (Miss de Vilotta's death has been confirmed to have come from the injuries from the straight-line testing crash in a British airfield last year.) Mr. Edwards was leading the Porsche Supercup with the final race, the Etihad Airways Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, upcoming.

Mr. Lafosse's crash came as he was following a Lola T600 of Juan Fernández (ESP) and the parents of both deceased drivers, Emil de Villota and Guy Edwards, listed as the three drivers.

Oh the sad irony of the stunt double who played his father in Ron Howard's Rush during the scene where the father was one of the drivers that rescued Niki Lauda in that horrific fire in the Nuerburgring in a crucial scene of the movie, based on the 1976 F1 battle between Mr. Lauda and James Hunt, die in the 180-degree corner at Queensland Raceway leading to Dick Johnson Straight in a horrific fiery crash where the Porsche ran over the tyre barriers and into concrete.

How cruel can sport be? For the two co-drivers of the Lola T600 that lead the tragic Rondeau, how cruel that the two drivers would lose their children in racing crashes?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Are megachurches the problem?

In Steve Skojec's article which Mitchell linked to last Friday, Skojec writes that if people wanted fellowship, they could head over to the “megachurches” that are rampant in today's world. Have people seen the type of services they have in such “megachurches” or even “gigachurches,” as some have been called because of their gargantual size.

The modern megachurch has virtually become a chain-store type of gospel, if any gospel is taught – most often not taught, as instead it has become a self-help centre, engaged often in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a noted heretical movement of the 21st century. Many of these “branches” do not even have a minister in control, and instead have viewers watching the minister's “quickie” sermon (designed to ensure a service does not last more than one hour) on a video, and in some cases popular culture dominates the sermons. One well-known Southern Baptist church here (which in 1956 began a mission on the other side of town that became the church that welcomed a young immigrant family from Taiwan to the area – that church collapsed in 2001 and was sold to a Oneness Pentecostal – apostay alert in denying the Trinity – church run by our city's newly elected mayor) hung billboards outside the main highway with signs promoting a popular culture-based sermon series, which we've mentioned in Our Word many times is the problem with churches today.

Many of these places are located in areas where you would not imagine would be a house of God. The local megachurch is branched in a former grocery store building, and walking into the church's sanctuary, complete with pillars, it resembles a rock concert hall, with a huge stage for the rock band and an intimate theatre-type surrounding for those who attend. Over in the big city just 80km away from the home is a branch of a notorious heretic with his “church beamed via satellite where each branch has its own rock band that plays the same song list in each congregation, and just beams from the flagship the sermon – in essence, a take on the nickname for a brand-new newspaper 31 years ago started by Al Neuharth that has become a well-known publication. These Life Enhancement Centres are often located in former department stores, convention halls, or other large building but not in houses of worship. They play the same service 15 times a week across the state with each building featuring its own local band and small staff, but what is being taught? And what about ministers helping those in need when there are thousands in that place every weekend? They aren't there to help those in need, such as the times I've had to talk with clergy one-on-one during family crises.

Instead of the didactic sacred song of centuries ago that taught God's Word, such as the sacred song that the Pope Emeritus has praised, and too many writers that I've read, especially with my experience over the years with church musicians and singers, the listener is drowned with loud 100dB rock music featuring material from the major church music publishers of today – Sony ATV Songs, Universal Music, Warner Music Group, Oregon Catholic Press, or GIA Publications (yes, Oregon Catholic Press and GIA Publications are both in many Protestant order sheets today), that drill attendees into a trance. Sometimes, those in attendance do not even learn the blasphemous nature of the songs being played in the megachurch services (see Sunday's service at one such venue with a song that I denounced and led to a flame war by those in church who supported the song without understand its questionable lyrics).

These entertainment-driven life enhancement centres are destroying Protestantism on one side, as are heretics pushing false teachings on the other side, which the local Anglican minister wrote a few months ago how the great Anglican split took place in the 20th into the 21st centuries (our part of South Carolina is in the Diocese of South Carolina, an independent Anglican congregation that split from The Episcopal Church). What had me wondering how ignorant mainliners were came during an interview I had with some practicing members of an Eastern New Age religion -- many had been Episcopalians, lost because of the heretical teachings there.

What Pope Francis has seemingly done to Catholics is possibly lean the Catholic Church towards the megachuch philosophy we're seeing in the Protestant world from false teachers such as Osteen, Hybels, and Noble. If he is, he's dangerously close to being heretic.

Separated at birth?

Left: Pope wearing firefighter helmet; Right: Calvin Coolidge in Indian Headdress

Another example of why Jack Kennedy said he'd never be photographed wearing a hat - they won't take you seriously...   

Monday, October 14, 2013

Retro TV Monday - This Week in TV Guide, October 3, 1959

Lee Marvin is, according to this week's cover, "TV's Angry Man," but he sounds more like a character from a Paul Auster or Don DeLillo novel, or maybe Ernest Hemingway.

I can't really call Bob Johnson's article an interview or a profile, because aside from the first and last paragraphs, there's no evidence that Marvin actually answered any questions.  Instead, he conducted a very entertaining two-page stream-of-consciousness monologue.

The article begins with Marvin (and, presumably, Johnson) leaving the set for the lunch break.  "'It's moving,' he said, stomping and muttering through smaller billows of the claylike material he was brushing out of his crew cut with both hands.  'If it's moving, baby, I say grab it. Look at this filthy mess.  Let's go.'"

The topic is, naturally, M Squad, which Marvin starred in for three seasons. I promise you, these are actual quotes from the article, not taken out of context.

Read the complete article here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The problem with Francis

Steve Skojec hits it on the head: (h/t Rod Dreher)

So back to Pope Francis. What is my problem with him? Well, let me start by saying that I had hope for the papacy that followed Benedict XVI. I had an inclination that maybe he really knew what he was doing with his abdication and that something was coming that the Church needed. And yet, when I saw Francis that first moment as he stepped out to face the massive crowds in St. Peter’s square, I found myself filled with inexplicable dread. I had no idea who the man was or what he was about – I had never even heard his name before that moment. But there was something in his face, in the deadness of his eyes, that inspired in me a feeling of revulsion. I have always had a strong ability to judge character, but I tried to suppress it. I attempted to find ways to give the benefit of the doubt. I could not discount a successor of St. Peter because of nothing more than a feeling. But that feeling was strong, and I have never been ill-served by listening to my feelings about people.

Then he started speaking. And the statements he has been making are intensely problematic. Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely. What kind of a Christian tells an atheist he has no intention to convert him? That alone should disturb Catholics everywhere. Many of his other statements, by and large, are less egregious, though they are still quite problematic. They are open to wildly varying interpretation because they are made without context, thus leaving it open to the will of the interpreter to apply it.


There are a lot of Catholics out there – good ones, probably far better ones than I am – trying to put a positive spin on every foolish thing the pope says. They don’t like it, not one bit, when other Catholics say things like, “Hey, what this guy is saying doesn’t sound at all like the Catholicism I’ve lived and studied MY ENTIRE LIFE. It sounds like something far different. It sounds like something intended to change the way Catholics believe.”

Skojec says he can’t fathom why anyone faced with the Church of 2013 would choose to convert to Catholicism:

For fellowship? I can get fellowship from the local MegaChurch, with far fewer impositions on my personal liberty. For the sacraments? But most Catholics don’t even believe in the Real Presence, most parishes have no adoration or Eucharistic devotions, most priests offer an hour or less per week of confession time on the parish schedule.

As a convert myself, I can totally understand and identify with this.  Now, mind you, I completely accept the teachings of the Catholic Church without hesitation or qualification.  But the point is, I didn't discover what those were until I'd already been drawn toward the Church.  There was something about it that was a powerful attraction for me, and the question I have is this very one - would I have been attracted to the Church, would I have bothered to take the time to find out what she stood for, if this was the Church being offered to me.

And ultimately that's what disturbs me - the number of people who will never discover the Church because they've been turned off by her, the number who will turn away from her because they feel as if they've been deserted, the number who will come to her because of a misguided belief in what she teaches, and then spend the rest of their lives trying to force her to conform to their desires.

Check that - it's not the number of people I'm worried about; it's the number of souls.

(And by the way - if you don't like what I have to say here, then it's just as well I don't write much about religion anymore.)  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Classic Sports Thursday - Allan Simonsen

A few years ago, Fox Sports in the States broadcast live Australia's signature touring car race, the Supercheap Auto 1000 from Bathurst, NSW, complete with Southeast-based broadcasters making the grand flight across the Pacific. Saturday night Australia will have the 53rd running of the classic (two races run in 1997 and 1998 because of a dispute -- one for the 2 litre European Super Touring formula in the usual October date and a mid-spring date for the 5-litre V8 Supercar formula that is traditionally Bathurst, mainly because of a dispute between Seven and Ten), the 43rd as a 1,000 km event (the first ten races were 500 miles but Australian metrification laws added 121 miles in 1973, abolishing the single-driver possibility that the great Peter Brock used in one of his nine Bathurst wins).

Tragic news from Bathurst history occurred in June when Allan Simonsen (DEN), the codriver of the pole-winning and eventual third-place finishing #11 Pepsi Max Kelly Racing Holden Commodore with Greg Murphy (who will be in Saturday night's classic in the #22 Walkinshaw Racing Toll Holden with James Courtney), was killed at the 24 Heures du Mans on Lap 3 going through Tertre Rouge when his Young Driver AMR Aston Martin went wide through the tricky double apex, hit the trees on the other side of the Armco, killing the popular Dane who had been set to participate in the Brad Jones Racing #21 car this season (a replacement has since been hired -- the #14 won one of the four Austin races in V8's this year (and also won with their #8 earlier in the season) - Triple Eight (#1, #10, #888) won the other three Austin races -- too bad ESPN dumped the V8's for their X Games next year at COTA).

Simonsen's lap of 2:04.956 in a Ferrari was taken during a hotlap meet at the legendary Mount Panorama circuit a hotlap event a month after the 2011 Bathurst classic, and was later surpassed by a 2:04.6187 lap in a Formula 3 car in Australia. Jenson Button also has a faster time from 2011 (1:48.88) in a McLaren MP4-26, but that was not in an official session, so it does not count.

In memory of the 2011 pole-winning team's co-driver, here's Simonsen's lap in a Ferrari that went under the 2:05 range:

2011 "Great Race" Finish (with US broadcast audio):

What's wrong with sports today

It's become fashionable over the last few decades to see a larger meaning to sports - to see baseball as representing a microcosm of life, for example.

There is, however, another - less romantic - way in which sports mirrors life today.  ESPN's Tim Keown, writing about the prospect of the city of Oakland losing all three of its professional sports teams, on what sports has become:

Take a look at those future ruins. They rose from the ground before crowds inside stadiums mimicked the stratification of the society outside, with the moneyed elite walling themselves off from the commoners in gloriously appointed privacy -- a logical extension of the gated, country-club community.
Are we destined to forever live in a sports world where amenities go from desirous to compulsory? Are fans and taxpayers just resigned to either building new shrines or losing their teams?
In the relentlessly monarchical world of professional sports, someone has to be able to forsake a digit or two in the bank account to create a legacy more meaningful than a trust fund that'll cover a lifetime of BMWs and Botox treatments for the grandchildren of his grandchildren. Someone has to consider the void left behind. And someone has to make a clear-eyed assessment of whether 4–12 will look any better through the window of a luxury suite with a view of LA Live than it does through the bottom of a smuggled-in fifth of Albertsons scotch in the depths of the Black Hole.

Do read the whole article.  Now, I've never been one to jump on the "trash the suburbs" bandwagon, though I myself prefer living in an urban area.  And there's nothing inherently wrong with living in a gated community, when the purpose is to provide a minimum amount of security to, say, an apartment complex without a security entrance.  But when the attempt is to create a permanent chasm between classes - in fact, to create a cultural subset where those of a certain lifestyle never even have to come into contact with "everyone else," then there's a problem. Sports has often been a means of building community, of something that crosses political, racial, or religious lines.  It was never meant to become a ghetto for the rich.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Opera Wednesday

We haven't done one of these for awhile, and since the blog's been kind of quiet lately (I'll have to talk to the contributing editors about that), there's no time like the present.

The way an opera ends can be as important as how it begins.  I'm not talking about the performance itself, although an opera that ends on a sour note (literally) can leave a bad taste in the mouth.  No, I'm talking about the actual ending as written by the composer.  I've written before about how for all his genius, Mozart got it wrong with the anticlimactic finale to Don Giovanni.  On the other hand, a powerful conclusion can favorably color an entire piece - as much as I liked Nixon in China, for example, I thought the final aria ("How much of what we did was good?") was absolutely stunning.

Here's a look at one of the great finales in opera, the tragic conclusion to Puccini's magnificent Madama Butterfly, with Patricia Racette.  Patrick Summers is conducting the Metropolitan Opera in this performance from a few seasons back.  There's a joke in music circles about Puccini being one's favorite composer of Oriental music.  He was Italian, of course, but uses Asian themes to wonderful effect in Butterfly (and Turandot as well), and there's no better example than what's seen (and heard) here. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Retro TV Monday - This Week in TV Guide, October 1, 1966

Over at the TV blog, I've been running a feature for the past couple of years called "This Week in TV Guide," in which I take a look at some of the more interesting cultural notes from back in the day.*

*A phrase just one step removed from "Get off my lawn, you kids."  Of course, the fact that I don't have a lawn right now is beside the point.

At any rate, here's a preview of this week's piece - be sure to follow the link to read the whole thing.


For the first time, the stain of the 1960s - Vietnam - graces the cover of this week's TV Guide.

Neil Hickey, TV Guide's New York Bureau Chief and author of some of the best news features published by the magazine, presents the first of a four-part series on how - and how well - television is covering its first war. It is a war "exorbitantly more demanding, both mentally and physically, than anything those earlier newsmen faced in Europe or the Pacific." It's a guerrilla war, replete with everything from jungle disease to ambush land mines and booby traps, field telephones that barely work, and as one correspondent puts it, "pushing the cause of journalistic profanity to new horizons." As NBC's David Burrington puts it, "There are so many imponderables and ironies here that it's sometimes difficult, if not downright impossible, to explain what's happening in terms that an American audience will understand." 

Read the complete article

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wish I'd written that

Speed has never killed anyone; suddenly becoming stationary...that's what gets you."

Jeremy Clarkson, co-host of BBC's Top Gear.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The sad state of television today: The critics forcing acceptance of R and NC-17 rated programming by giving them Emmy nominations

Movie theatres have a problem when the rating of a film is “R” or “NC-17” (an X rating before 1990) because they will appeal to adults only. Restrictions against children are strictly imposed in the theatre. However, it's clear now with the proliferation of cord-cutting and Web-only viewers they can escape the restrictions of theatres. Yet, with television's “TV-MA” rating, which is the equivalent of an NC-17 (or X) rating in television, we are seeing the rewards of the R/X-class programming on television.

Consider that HBO, Showtime, and Netflix can air TV-MA grade programming, and the Emmy nominations went mostly to that triumvirate, while the broadcast networks, which have a restriction of Y7, G, PG, and some 14 after 10 PM ET, were shut out of the prestigious drama category, you have to wonder what it says when pay television, with no restrictions on content, is defeating network television, which must cater to as many people as possible.

Does it seem that television's equivalent of the R and NC-17 ratings, unlike movies, is worth artistic gold, with Emmy nominations, while network television with their PG and PG-13 ratings, are being shut down by these R and NC-17 type shows? If the Emmys believe raunchy content that's not capable of being on network television is the golden goose to earn accolades, we are in trouble.

Speaking of which, the report on Al Jazeera America's launch this week is only fitting considering Al Jazeera effectively shut down three Fox sport-related channels (Speed, Fuel, Fox Soccer) as much of their content has gone to the pan-Arabic Qatar channel (and their partners at Time Warner Cable, for legal reasons), Comcast (see the rise of NBC Sports Network), and Fox is starting a basic cable channel with the R and NC-17 type HBO/Showtime/Netflix unrestricted raunch (FXX) to replace the football channel, while replacing the motorsport and action-sports and MMA channel with general sports channels (Fox Sports 1 and 2). Already, according to a report posted on ESPN, television providers are balking at FS1 and FS2 because of the carriage fees.

It is a sad sign of what we have become when acceptance of deviancy in violation of the Bible is glorified and mandated by federal law. Now it's even worse that Hollywood and the critics are forcing on us their attitudes of grotesque material that would not have been put on television years ago.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

This weekend's Darlington Stripes

The news about disgraced soldier Bradley Manning, whose campaign to change the military to a sexual deviancy activist organisation was successful via Public Law 111-321, and his Wikileaks scandal that sent him to prison is very disturbing. But if he wants the identity of Chelsea, he must wear this shirt.

MTV has been the target of Our Word over the years here, especially since we regularly attend the orchestra and have an appreciation of classical music (just witness what happened when, during my daily Bible reading, I sensed the words from masterpiece I had sung months earlier came to life). The story over two grotesque performances by two major artists popular with this generation at the MTV Video Music Awards Sunday, held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, showed the most banal standards that Fox Business anchorman Stuart Varney blamed it on the previous generation for accepting it in their time. Sometimes, I have a sense that someone's sitting in the Oval Office (fka Big Red Truck) and calling all three offending artists into the office for consultation. And at this pace, maybe the Barclays Center needs to be renamed the Sky Bet Centre. The calibre of "singer" there was a far cry from the Barclays-calibre type singers such as Анна Нетребко and the Minnesota Opera's Rebecca Krynski (in the upcoming performance of Manon Lescault; the author has seen her perform in college and the infamous St. Peter's Catholic performance of The True Story of Cinderella), Walter Cuttino, or the LaRoches (Michael and Serena).

And speaking of such outrageous performances, I think we've gone too far in sport and art with costuming, and even in schools. Who would want their kid to dress like those bad pop stars? We see that at sporting events and we rarely hear any complaints about it. But do it on television at the MTV awards, we hear complaints. Why is there a double standard?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Teenage criminal rampage: UN treaty not ratified by the Senate, but by the Supreme Court, protects the criminals

At church recently, we were informed of a robbery at a bakery where three teenagers ransacked the business and killed an employee there. She had ties to the local community. In Oklahoma, a college student, originally from Australia and a baseball player at a college there, was killed by teenagers "for fun". In Spokane (WA), an elderly war hero from the Greatest Generation died after teenagers attacked him with a weighted flashlight.

In each case, the criminals involved were teenagers. In each case, there will be no justice for the victims' families. The teenage criminals will be protected to the full extent of the law, and may not even serve as much as thirty years in prison, and that is a problem in our justice system. A popular trend in the United States Supreme Court is a virtual relocation of the nation's legislative capital to Geneve (Suisse), as a rash of Supreme Court decisions has stated foreign law trumps local, state, and federal laws.

In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court declared a “constitutional” right to sodomy based on foreign laws. Justice Scalia warned this decision would push liberals' to attack churches in redefining marriage based on "bedroom laws," and would be the lightning rod to elimination of a fundamental freedom (of religion) and replacement with a forced acceptance of sin as normal. Two years later, again on foreign laws, Roper v. Simmons cited more foreign laws, and in an attack on the nation's sovereignty, violated Article II, Section 2, Paragraph 4 of the United States Constitution, which requires a treaty to be approved by a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate, by de facto ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that had been signed by Ambassador Albright in the 1990's, but rejected by the Senate. This decision barred death sentences on teenage murderers. Five years later, Graham v. Florida, citing the treaty-infused decision, codified the UN treaty by banning even life sentences on teenage criminals, in effect giving them a "get out of jail free" card. Not even 30 years is now legal for a sentence for teenage criminals.

Considering in the past decade the courts have ruled foreign law is superior to local, state, and federal law, and the criminals cannot be sentenced properly for their crimes, have we reaped what the courts sowed by giving criminals special rights? Is there an incentive for teen criminals to perform heinous crimes, knowing the penalty cannot be enforced because of their age?

With nullification being a major issue in many states, have we seen the price of Lawrence, Roper, and Graham, where the adoption of foreign laws and unratified treaties has taken our country back to a savage time, where there is no punishment for those guilty, as they are under special protections caused by foreign laws that coddle criminals at the expense of justice for the victims?

Think about it. As foreign law and unratified treaties creep into our country by court fiat, their mandates to appease moral relativism does not match with strict law and order that form the backbone of the American criminal justice system. These criminals have taken advantage of the laws that protect them, and punish victims. My fourth grade history book discussed the failure of the United Nations since its 1945 founding, and protecting of dictatorial despots while oppressing freedom-loving nations (such as the betrayal of Taiwan). Now we are seeing how they are now protecting teenage criminals at the expense of families they victimised.
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