Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wish I'd Written That

Now that the Olympics are over, maybe it's safe to share what I really think.  From Paul Lucas at Uniwatch:
Hmmm — artistry, theater, glitz, glamour, storytelling. Those are all perfectly valid terms, and they do indeed seem to be central to figure skating’s ethos, and even its scoring rules, which are completely subjective and include grades for “Composition and Choreography” and “Interpretation and Timing.” All of which reinforces a simple point I’ve been making for years (and feel obliged to make again, now that the winter Olympics are taking place):

Figure skating is not a sport.

Paul goes on to answer a few objections he knows people might have to his opinion - or, as I would put it, statement of fact:
Having winners and losers makes skating a competition, not a sport. Lots of things are competitions but not sports: ballroom dancing contests, battles of the bands, chess tournaments, American Idol, video games, fantasy baseball leagues, Uni Watch design contests, bake-offs, and so on. At least one of those things is athletic, but none of those things is a sport, and neither is figure skating. 

(Of course, we could probably say that about half the events in today's Winter Olympics, but never mind that.)

Read the whole thing here.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Retro TV Monday - This week in TV Guide: February 24, 1979

The last time we saw James Arness,he was patrolling Dodge City as Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke.  He's now on a different network, ABC, in a different role, Zeb Macahan, on a different show, How the West Was Won. But Arness remains a larger-than-life star in a genre that's been very good to him: the Western.

Westerns used to dominate television - in 1959 alone there were 26 of them.  But there hasn't been a successful one since - when? Brisco County, Jr.?  That was a quirky series that really tried to transcend the genre to make it more relevant to the 21st Century, but perhaps it was too far ahead of its time, and it only lasted one season on Fox.  Firefly?  That was another series that Fox didn't really get, and it too ran only one season.  It was a blend of the old West and the new West - space. For all its sci-fi trappings, though, its sensibility was the Western.  Then there are the modern-day Westerns, from Walker, Texas Ranger to Justified to Longmire, but those are programs that I'd say are set in the West geographically more than philosophically. Little House on the Prairie had a good pedigree, Michael Landon having been one of the stars of one of the last big-time Westerns, Bonanza.  Doctor Quinn probably qualifies as a Western in spirit as well as setting, but that strikes me more as soap opera than horse opera.

How the West Was Won wasn't what you'd call a long-running success, but it's one of those shows that seemed always to be on TV one way or another.  It started as a TV-movie in 1976, The Macahans, then had a go in miniseries format the next season, before becoming a regular series for 1978 and 1979.  As the notoriously reclusive Arness sits down for his "one and only" interview of the new season, he explains to Dick Russell the difference between his two titanic characters.  Machaan, he says, is a man from "an era when men were the law unto themselves," making their own rules, taking advice only from themselves.  Matt Dillion, on the other hand, "was the opposite - a guy who not only had to see that the laws were carried out, but live by them himself.  He had to do the right thing." Arness took this code to heart, as "Miss Kitty," Amanda Blake, recalls: "He didn't want Matt to make a mistake."  She wondered why he couldn't be "on the other end of the pole" even once.  "Might've been interesting.  But Jim would never hear of it."

How the West Was Won gives Arness a chance to live out a different kind of Western hero, one closer to his own persona - the rugged outdoorsman, less restrained and buttoned up than Dillon.  But the strength of Dillon, and of James Arness the man, remains paramount.  In real life, as a close friend confides, Arness "really believes in the law of the West - what's right is right, and wrong is wrong; there are no grays."  It's impossible to not see this quality in Arness, and perhaps that had to do with the end of the Western.  As the 50s morphed into the 60s and 70s, society was less confident, less able to tell the difference between right and wrong, more willing to see the shades of grey that Arness was unwilling to acknowledge.  The kind of self-assuredness of a Matt Dillon or Zeb Macahan threatens people at times like this, people who lack that kind of knowledge of themselves, and when confronted with it they often shut their eyes to it.  By the time the public was again ready for that kind of television hero, as Steven Stark comments in Glued to the Set, the maverick cowboy had been replaced by the maverick police detective.

How the West Was Won leaves the air in 1979, and James Arness will return to Gunsmoke, making five TV-movies between 1987 and 1994. His own foray into police procedurals, McClain's Law, has a brief run in 1981-82.  Arness' character, Jim McClain, is described as an "old-school" cop; but when it comes to taking the bad guy to school, nobody does it better than the heroes of the Old West, the ones James Arness plays so well.

Read the rest here.  

This Just In

United States Currency Declared Worthless following Canadian Conquest. 

Canada celebrates, US mourns, after historic announcement
OTTAWA, ON -- Fresh off the surrender papers signed by President Obama on 21 February 2014, the Royal Canadian government has ordered United States currency declared worthless and all such fraudulent currency burned. 

"It is important that with this historic surrender of a nation that their currency be declared worthless," said officials at the Exchequer. With that the only currency permitted in the newly conquered territories will become the Canadian dollar.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why do we choose sides?

Rod Dreher wonders why we feel compelled to pick a side in Ukraine:

Do you know who the good guys and the bad guys are in Ukraine? I do not. In Egypt, I was not sorry to see the Morsi government overthrown, but one should not be under any illusions that the Egyptian military are the good guys. Why do we have to pick a side? Are we sure we know enough about what’s going on there to do so? Some of us might; one of this blog’s readers is in Kiev, and he has clear and firmly held opinions about the Yanukovych government. I respect that, but it is clearer to me that America does not need to be picking sides in this fight than it is which side we should pick.

Well, the first thought that came to my mind is that we choose sides because we live in a culture today that forces us to choose sides.  The mentality is everywhere.  We love our sports, and we apply its terminology to everything.  Politics becomes a horserace, and it matters less whether a candidate can articulate an issue than it does that he’s scored points, he’s landed the knockout punch, he’s pulling away from the field or falling back into the pack.  Nobody wants to know about the substance of what’s discussed – they just want to know who wins and who loses.

ESPN’s motto on many of its shows is “embrace debate.”  Doesn’t matter what the issue is, there have to be two sides, and they have to be heard out – often at the top of their lungs.  Even if you don’t have a strong feeling one way or another, you take a side, because that’s what makes good television – and good entertainment.

Reality programming dominates television.  And what is it about reality shows that most often appeals to the viewers?  You have a winner and a loser.  And the viewer must take sides; no sane individual would watch a show like Survivor without developing a rooting interest for or against someone – for that’s the other side of the coin.  If you can’t find someone you like, someone to root for, find someone you hate, and root against them.  It’s just as much fun – try it.

Everything is personal.  You either agree with me, or else.  Whether it’s politics, religion, sports, restaurant cuisine: if you disagree with me, it invalidates not only your opinion on that issue, but on everything else as well.  See it on Facebook, read it on Twitter, it doesn’t matter if it’s your battle or not – the important thing is to choose a side, and make sure everyone else knows which side you’re on.  And if they’re on the other side, judge them for that.

Given all this, is it any wonder that we feel compelled to take sides?  Armed conflict is, for us, another form of entertainment.  War is a spectator sport, to be viewed on television in-between highlights of the Olympics and scenes from the most recent argument on Capitol Hill.  We take sides on those, why not on war as well?  It’s a zero-sum game; there has to be a winner and a loser, and Americans love a winner.

Remarkably, for a culture that seems reluctant to view morality in terms of black-and-white, we seem to have no qualms about doing just that when it comes to choosing sides.  It’s hard for us to believe that both sides in a conflict can be “the bad guys.”  The Egyptian rebels fighting to bring down Mubarak must be right; after all, isn’t Mubarak supposed to be a dictator?  So let’s support them, and the fact that there are some pretty bad dudes among them – well, we’ll look the other way on that.

We abhor a vacuum.  Even in a situation such as Vietnam, where antiwar sentiment was rampant, it’s not as if people refused to join sides.  Many of the antiwar activists were openly rooting for the Vietcong, and the conflict between pro- and antiwar sides became as much of a battle as the war itself.  Not choosing a side – there’s just something un-American about it.

We lead with our hearts, not our heads.  We’ve Oprahfied the way we look at foreign policy every bit as much as we have everything else in our world.  Who’s the scrappy underdog, which side has the most malnourished refugees, let’s cheer on the plucky rebels raging against the big bad machine.

You see how absurd this all is?  So when Rod asks this question – and I think it’s a very good one, a very telling one – why should we be surprised at what the answer is?  It is, after all, the world we created for ourselves. And after all - it's just entertainment, isn't it?  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Retro TV Monday - This week in TV Guide: February 20, 1965

When we think of Burgess Meredith, we tend to associate him with the Penguin in the original Batman, or as the hapless librarian in the Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough at Last," or perhaps as the veteran cornerman in Rocky, for which he received an Oscar nomination.  But in February 1965, he's co-starring with James Franciscus in the high school drama Mr. Novak, where he plays Principal Martin Woodridge.

Meredith has come to the series in its second and last season, as a replacement for the ailing Dean Jagger, who was forced to leave due to an ulcer.  It is hoped that Meredith's character will inject some tension into the series; Jagger, as Principal Albert Vane, had been more of a father-figure, and Woodridge's introduction figures to inject some conflict with the idealistic Novak.  (It doesn't work, or at least not enough to boost the ratings; Meredith appears for 17 episodes, after which the show is cancelled.)

It's considered quite the coup to attract Meredith to series television; he'd previously turned down series such as The Travels of Jamie McPheeters, and is known much more as a Broadway actor and director. His TV guest shots, including four appearances on Twilight Zone, have been memorable, but he's well aware of the difficulties facing veteran actors.  "Let's face it, I live high," he tells Dwight Whitney.  "I raise jumping horses, Kaja [his wife] flies airplanes.  The younger people don't know who I am.  And that, in this day and age, is essential."

So Novak is not the show that will bring Burgess Meredith to prominence among the younger generation. But just wait a couple of years, and that will change. . .

View the rest here.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Television and advertising executives, holed up in Urban America, ignore the Heartland

Listening to Sean Hannity Friday evening on the way to a Baroque Soloists concert in regards to the departure of Jay Leno from Comcast had me taking notes that came to fruition after reading backlash over advertising that has aired during the Games of the XXII Winter Olympiad that has advanced sin peddling of sexual deviancy.  Mr. Hannity's comments on Mr. Leno resonated with the advertising push to advance same-sex “couples” that we've seen in both Super Bowl XLVIII and the XXII Winter Olympiad since they are intertwined.

Mr. Hannity noted how Comcast management in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and Connecticut were out of touch with what plays in Middle America, and it was that attitude that led to Mr. Leno's dismissal.

When I though about it, I see the excessive push for sin and the controversy over the Coca-Cola advertisement during Super Bowl XLVIII (it has since been edited), and I see the same issue.  The advertising agencies that script, cast, and produce the advertisements have more control over the ad than the company paying for the ad.  And similar to the Comcast issue with Mr. Leno, the management of the advertising agencies are in the same major cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, et al) and what may play in the large cities, where the city-states that decided the 2012 elections are located, is not something that will play again in Middle America.

When you think about sexual deviancy activism (why is it being stuffed in your face as a way to show victory via Autogol), it will play in San Francisco, Seattle, and urban areas stuffed with cash by Tim Gill and others, but it does not play in the Heartland, as we have seen with arrogant urbanites trying to force their agenda down when a clear supermajority opposes them.  The urban areas are more likely to be loaded with people of no religious faith, which support the cause, and helped put the President over the top.  I'm sick of seeing the sexual deviancy group acting as if they own the world now to protest President Putin.

But seriously, Mr. Putin makes a serious point.  How would parents like it if sexual predators and deviants were allowed to push their propaganda in school and recruit the children?  We have seen the results of sex predators attacking children, and it is not pretty.  The Russian law makes perfect sense, in effect protecting children from being bombarded with propaganda advancing heinous behaviour we are taught in Leviticus 18 and Romans 1 is wrong and sin.  Yet we have schools in the States trying to recruit new predators.  The Russians have made it clear we must defend our country against the Dan Savages of the world who rely on tactics such as cybersquatting on a Catholic politician and resulting in him losing every election since the cybersquatting tactic began, especially since his name is being used for X-rated material I cannot discuss.  How far worse can it be now?  I support Vlad here.

Reminds me of a music video over 20 years ago:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Владимир Путин is right about Banni

Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it," was posted on letterheads of the parochial school where I was raised.  It effectively warns us that teaching children from a Biblical worldview matters.

Meanwhile, the President's decision on his Delegation to the Olympic Games raised furore, as he chose sexual deviants in an attempt to advance his humanist, anti-Christian propaganda that we have seen throught his Presidency, a complete opposite to the previous Administration, whose Olympic delegations have featured a man who made the Great Outdoors into his business, the man who would have painted the CCCP locker rooms for USA-CCCP game pink, baseball's Iron Man, and winners of the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500.

His reasoning was to protest Russia's law that prohibits sexual deviants and their from teaching propaganda promoting their sinful lifestyle that is against nature's law and nature's God, as David Barton called it in our SC Citizens for Life Proudly Pro-Life Banquet last month, to youth.  The law makes sense when you think of it from a Proverbs 22 perspective.  What the Russians said in the law that has the President and others protesting was children must be kept safe from harmful propaganda being pushed by activists that want to normalise and promote ideas that are against God and the things He established such as pedophilia and the entire playbook of sexual deviancy activists; agenda.  As the old saying goes, "O be careful of your eyes (and ears) what to see (and hear)."

Protecting children from the filth of propaganda pushes is crucial, and that's what the Russian law in question does.  Children should be trained on a solid Biblically based moral ground, and when when Russia has it right and the President has it wrong, we have a country on the downfall.  We have seen the results of rewarding child molesters in college (Sandusky), and we cannot pass the bill that would reward child molesters as a federally protected class;  we must teach the standards our Founding Fathers were taught, not the humanists. And now look at the push to force Olympians to conform to humanist worldview, and in effect abolish Christianity.

This morning following my morning workout, I saw a report on Common Core, or as an educator calls it, “Commie Core,” as it is also a fight against textbooks attempting to advance filth. The newfound federalisation shows its true colours in advancing left-wing propaganda when mathematics books were used to sell home the liberal point that Vice President Gore should have won the 2000 election. I saw after being forced to leave parochial school by family, in the first of the years at the same school as The Governess when I was bullied to submission physically, the math books were promoting Environmental Propaganda of the Greens. Folks, this problem isn't new -- but we cannot be pushing left-wing propaganda in our textbooks, especially math books.  It is the intentional dumbing down that has helped other nations surpass us, and make us the laughingstock of the world.

What will liberals think next to advance their propaganda and make us into the New CCCP?  Sadly, Владимир Путин is right about the absurdity of the sexual deviancy activists.  They, however, are making a protest because they want to force their view of the world that would shut churches down.   

Shirley Temple Black, R.I.P.

From the May 4, 2013 edition of "This Week in TV Guide" at It's About TV:

The former child star, now all of 30 years old, is the host and occasional star of Shirley Temple's Storybook, airing on NBC.  She'd retired twice from acting, most recently at 21, having made 33 movies and more than $3,000,000. Since then she's been Mrs. Charles Alden Black, married with three children, but she's never really been that far from the public eye.  Dolls, storybooks, and TV repeats of her movies have ensured that Shirley Temple will always be an American icon.  She relates a story of how her mailman, "a darling old man about 70, said to me, 'Mrs. Black, does Shirley Temple live here?'  And I said, 'Why yes, I used to be Shirley Temple.' 'Oh, my!' he cackled. 'You used to be my favorite movie star - when I was a little boy!'"
Shirley Temple Black has led probably one of the most successful lives of any former child star. Although Storybook ended after two years, she continued to make television appearances, then became involved in politics (she'd always had an interest in current events), ran unsuccessfully for Congress, served as a representative to the United Nations, and was appointed U.S. ambassador to Ghana and later Czechoslovakia.  She survived breast cancer and was one of the first celebrities to speak openly about it.  And the name Shirley Temple is still - and will continue to be - magic.

In a day when most child stars seem to wind up on the police blotter as often as in the movies, when many others fade into obscurity or struggle with a lifetime of psychological problems, Shirley Temple stood apart. She was a movie star, mother, patriot, diplomat - and she did it with panache.  She was an individual who could remind the hardest politician that he was now in the presence of a real star, and her name alone brought back a wash of memories to generations who'd grown up with her and had passed her down to their children.

Shirley Temple was an American icon.  She may have died today, at the age of 85, and she will be missed, but she'll not be forgotten.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Retro TV Monday - This week in TV Guide: February 11, 1961

Until a few years ago, the most I could say about Peter Gunn was that Craig Stevens played a suave private eye, and it had one of the coolest themes of all time.  Now, to know that I had to have seen it at some point in time, probably many years ago, before I was old enough to understand Lola Albright.  But then I was able to get the complete series on DVD - and then I got Lola Albright.

[Pause while heartbeat returns to normal.]

Albright plays Edie Hart, the singer who's also Gunn's girlfriend. She works out of a bar called Mother's, which doubles as the place where Gunn meets his clients and conducts his business.  She's a smart, sassy character* who's graced with some snappy dialogue, every bit Gunn's equal in the scenes in which they're matched.  She has a fine singing voice, doing her own vocals in the occasional set pieces at Mother's.  She exudes an adult sexiness that makes it impossible to take your eyes off of her when she's on screen.  And she's a likable character, as is Gunn, making this one of the easier private eye shows to watch.

*Gunn's nickname for her was "Silly."

Off screen, Lola Albright has some things to say about what she sees as an unreasonable invasion of her privacy since her divorce from actor Jack Carson.  "To tell the truth, I'm sick and tired of the line 'Does Lola get what Lola wants?'*  Every magazine and newspaper seems to leap on it as though discovering it for the very first time.  I am equally sick and tired of the line 'Lonely Lola.'"  Such are the curses of having an alliterative name, it would appear.  "If my name were Betty, I'd be two cliches to the good."  She struggles with the line between personal and public; while she understands the sacrifices of privacy that are part of stardom, she wonders "why does the press have to go so far?  Why do they print things you never said, things they make up out of a blue sky?  Why do they twist what you say into meanings you never meant?"  Lola also denies she's dissatisfied with her role on Gunn; she likes how Edie got her own place in the third (and final) season, a plot devise that gives her a chance to sing more.  "I don't want to dominate the show and I certainly don't want a series of my own."

*If you're unsure of the origin of the line, watch this.

People who work with her have nothing but good things to say.  Frank Stempel, who was her ex-husband Carson's manager, says that "Even now that she's making good money, she doesn't really know what it is.  She goes out of her way to help people.  She'd give away her last dime if she thought it would help somebody."  Press agent Bill Stein remembers how when his wife was in the hospital, "Lola must have called me a dozen times offering to come out and take care of the two kids while I was working.  If you know her, you like her."

Peter Gunn, which ends its three-year run at the end of the current season, is probably the high point of Lola Albright's career, although she's hardly a recluse once the series ends, appearing in several big-screen movies and is a steady presence in guest roles on TV through the 80s.  But there's no disagreeing that in a genre that often produces more than its share of annoying characters, Peter Gunn's Edie is one of the most enjoyable; in fact, after you've watched her in a few episodes, you'll probably be singing these words as well:

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Wish I'd Written That...

"The loss of the classical vernacular in architecture was inevitable, but tragic: we invented new ways for cities to look, and invented them all at once for everywhere, and the world did seem to be a different place that shook off the sodden caul of history. On the other hand, the new styles aged and died before our eyes, requiring new ones, and we remade things again, and again, ending up with style with no other purpose than catching the magpie-eye of the bauble hunter, appreciating the building for itself and nothing more. The Building of Tomorrow spends most of its life grousing in an ever-growing number of Yesterdays; the styles of our accumulated history brings the past right into the present and reminds us of the baggage we carry, the things we were. There’s not a classically-influenced church you couldn’t imagine with the Pope walking up the aisle. There’s not a modern spare church where you’d be surprised if someone took the pulpit and said 'I’d like to talk to you about term life insurance.'"

James Lileks 2/5/14   

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Olympics Preview: Interview with Marc Ryan, author of From Berlin to Beijing and London: A Look at TV and the Olympics

My interview this week at It's About TV is a return engagement with Marc Ryan.  Back in November we talked about his book on TV coverage of the JFK assassination; this time we discuss his book From Berlin to Beijing and London: A Look at TV and the Olympics.  I think you should take a look at it, but then I'm prejudiced.

But did you know that the first telecast of the Olympics was the Summer Games in 1936?  Yep, it's true.  And you would have known that if you'd read my article here

Monday, February 3, 2014

Retro TV Monday - This week in TV Guide: February 4, 1967

Dale Robertson is my kind of guy: plain-spoken, to the point, conservative.  The star of ABC's The Iron Horse, and previous Western series such as Tales of Wells Fargo and Death Valley Days, "believes in income taxes but thinks that they should be a flat 25 percent with no limit on how much the high rollers can make."*  He also believes that the troubled urban areas such as Harlem can be rehabilitated by installing some pride of place, perhaps an early version of the "Broken Windows" theory, and that anyone fortunate enough to have the kind of life he has - a loving wife, obedient children, and three square meals a day - should be able to "do anything on God's green earth he sets his mind to."  No wonder that Robertson was out campaigning for Ronald Reagan during his successful 1966 run for Governor of California.

*Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as I've said more than once.

It's not a surprise to learn Robertson's values; a graduate from Oklahoma Military Academy, joined the Army right after Pearl Harbor, fought with Patton's Third Army in Europe.  Nor is it a surprise to read Robertson's opinions in TV Guide, or that a man with them is the star of a new series.  It's not quite so common today, however, to find conservatives in the industry so outspoken.  As Clint Howard (brother of Ron, and formerly of Gentle Ben) said not too long ago, “I always tell younger conservative-minded people that they better mind their P's and Q's and remember that you want to have a career."  This isn't a judgement on my part, by the way, just an observation. Of course TV Guide, a conservative publication, gives voice to conservative actors.   And there are still conservatives in Hollywood today - they're just a little harder to find.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Sunday night features the premiere of one of the most notable, controversial series of the 60s: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  Once upon a time I reviewed a DVD release of season 3 of Smothers Brothers.  Upon looking back at it, I find I didn't think much of it, which doesn't surprise me since I didn't think much of the show when it was originally on, just as I never thought much of the Smothers Brothers themselves, other than as a testimonial on just how far one could get in the entertainment business without much talent.

But here we are, at the very beginning.  The Brothers are coming off a mildly amusing sitcom in which Tom played an angel (no typecasting there), not to mention a fairly successful stand-up act, and numerous appearances on various television shows.  Their opening night lineup is amazingly conventional, with Ed Sullivan (welcoming them to the Sunday night lineup; they immediately followed Ed's show), Danny Thomas, Jim Nabors, and Jill St. John.  The ad accompanying the show promises a "riotous new series,*" with "daffy ballads and oddball humor."  Sounds pretty innocuous, doesn't it?  As I mentioned in that review, for all the shouting about the Smothers Brothers, their show was actually pretty conventional, and when it's removed from the topical context it's actually kind of stupid.

*I don't know what CBS was expecting from the show, but I doubt they thought the biggest riots would come from the network's relationship with their stars.

Nonetheless, that innocent listing is exactly the kind of thing we like to look for here: an advertisement for a historic program, with no hint as to what lies ahead.  The Smothers Brothers were, in my opinion, far more influential in terms of the precedent they set for the shows that followed them than they were with their own show.  One thing's for sure, though - the times, they were a 'changing.

Read the rest here
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