Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Let's start the new year right!

And I can't think of anyone better (looking) to put it into words than the lovely McGuire Sisters.  See you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmastide (Day 7) - Where is the Christ Child?

We cross the halfway point of Christmastide, with Epiphany coming the first Monday of the new year, and after that we start Ordinary Time until the Lenten season.  But as we reach Day Seven Wednesday, the last day of the year, I ask if we have lost the meaning of Christmas.

This Advent season (remember Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas, and Christmastide is Christmas to Epiphany), as I visited the stores, save for the religious stores and Hobby Lobby, it seemed that the decorations I saw on sale at stores and posted everywhere were promoting winter days that does not sound appropriate, considering the next Summer Olympics will take place in the winter (Rio is south of the Equator), and it's also summer for the INDYCAR champion (Australian).  The other type of decoration we are seeing at the stores is the old-fashioned obese man in a red outfit (you should have seen how two companies that I am a shareholder decided to slim him down for their marketing campaign) or the related reindeer from a 1960's television special always airing during this time of the year that later infuriated me when the Made in China winter holiday cards based on it were being sold at the Post Office, while I purchased Indiana-made Christmas cards from Abbey Press this year.  Why does everything have to be dreaming of snow and winter, as was the case of many years ago with movies?

The schools are saying “winter holiday,” and many stores are saying “holidays” with nary a reference to the child in the manger.  The signs of Joseph, Mary, the baby, the shepherds, the animals, and the magi are are few and far between.  (And don't raise the right hand in a toast when the last line is sung in “Away in a Manger,” which can be a problem if the Spilman tune is used!)  And after listening to “The Many Moods of Christmas,” I learned a song that has been very popular for Christmas isn't even theologically correct, it was written during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I appreciated the Catalan music and other music that had the message of the Child that we long forgot.  The numerous songs listed on the ASCAP Top 30 list were mainly winter songs, and sacred song has long been ignored.  Why is Mariah Carey better rewarded than Mark Lowry, though both are 1990's songs (although Pentatonix had a version of Mark's song that, well . . . )?

Meanwhile, television has vastly ignored the Christ child.  Whereas you could have seen coverage of live choral performances of masterpieces that promote the Christ Child 50 years ago, as we've learned, the sacred masterpieces are gone, shed to the scrapheap while specials from the latest pop stars are everywhere.  Live sing-along Messiahs and Lessons and Carols are more virtuous than the specials that are there today.

Just ponder the question:  Why have we become so ignorant of the Child whose birth we celebrate throughout this twelve day season?  Has popular culture shown they are out of touch with the heartland again?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Some more Christmastide humour

Craig Courtney's "A Musicological Journey Through the Twelve Days of Christmas" first came to my attention when Voices in Harmony (the South Carolina public radio programme featuring choral music, whose future is uncertain with the host's departure from state public radio -- she and I sang in a few Summer Choruses together) played it on their Christmas episode.

See if you can catch the references to classical music's masterpieces in this whimsical piece that is only fitting for the season (which, remember, goes into the new year).

Friday, December 26, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Christmastide

We've referenced in the past, and we'll do it again before we head to our Houses of Worship tonight, with many at 2300 hours awaiting services awaiting the arrival of the Saviour, that this is the start of the Christmas season, not the end, as popular culture would want you to think.

There are four Advent Sundays, the four Sundays leading to Christmas itself.  Then, of course, we have Christmastide, which is the entire twelve days that lead to the Epiphany (which is referenced via Matthew 2).  Our observance of Christmas begins tonight, and will continue into January 5.

As we change from Advent to Christmastide, we look at the words of a Christmas classic from John Francis Wade:

Venite adoremus, Dominum.

As we conclude this Christmas thought hours beforehand, let us read again Luke 2, and the verses that reference the Birth of the Saviour.

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Nero Wolfe on curiosity

I don't thank you for coming," [Wolfe] said. "I'm not disposed to thank you for anything. I have reason to believe that you are withholding information that would be of value. Indeed, I think you have lied. Don't bother to deny it. I tell you that only to establish the temper of the conversation. I'll be trying to find support for my opinion. What will you be doing?"

She would be staring. She was staring. "I know what I ought to be doing," she said. "Leaving. I ought to be on my way out."

"But you're not. You wouldn't, even if I'm wrong, because you want to know why. That's what makes us the unique animal, we want to know why and try to find out. We even try to discover why we want to know why, though of course we never will."

- Rex Stout, Please Pass the Guilt

Originally published January 11, 2012

Monday, December 15, 2014

A case of the demise of "religious" radio

The Terri Schiavo case, ten years later, has back in the news locally in South Carolina as part of an analysis of a recent announcement.  The announcement by a radio conglomerate that they were purchasing the local "religious' radio station and flipping it to their California-based commercial format with programming coming from the Golden State had me looking at the Schiavo case because of how that station's downturn was easily seen in my (soon to be) 18 years with the local Pro-Life Weekend (dinner and March for Life, scheduled for January 9-10).

In the early 2000's, the station had started its changeover, when the station ceased its media participation in the March for Life (the dinner was added in the past four years) as they were missing from media row.  They also eliminated news on the hour, and eliminated Biblical expository teachings from notable ministers such as Tony Evans (editor of the current quarter of the SBC's Explore the Bible and who spoke in our state against the massive expansion of the state government by adding a state-run numbers racket), Adrian Rogers (a legendary Memphis pastor, now deceased;  a Fox News personality recently filmed his Christmas show from his church), and current events programming such as Focus on the Family and educational radio programming Adventures in Odyssey.

The Focus on the Family issue broke out in the mid-1990's, but the controversy began when they began to discuss more current events from a Biblical worldview, and that included having their host leave the show after he confessed to an extramarital affair, and was replaced by legendary sportscaster Gary Bender for a few months.  When the show began discussing Roy Moore, the Alabama Supreme Court chief justice whose Decalogue from Exodus 20 in his office and even one outside the Supreme Court of the state infuriated the Humanist Elites, and Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman whose husband wanted to kill her in order to marry another woman (as we now know, cruelly on March for Life 2006, and was mocked by Seth McFarlane with a raunchy segment on his cartoons), the alleged "Christian" station had enough and purged the shows.  The station manager mentioned the audience for the station was 25-44 women who are mothers and rarely attend church, with Top 40-based music being the basis.  This pattern has arrived in modern churches, where many churches have turned into Life Enhancement Centres where the same emotional Top 40 fluff is played at their services as is heard on such radio stations.  The station's push for a lazy listenership where promoting rock concerts became the only thing that mattered it seemed created this mess.  This even was the subject of a 2003 WND article that was cited as stations began this push towards all entertainment, no preaching, teaching, or information.  Would a religious radio station get away with that now?

And now it has come full circle with the sale of that station to a commercial chain group.  Rush Limbaugh warns of "low information voters".  Modern radio's focus on low information listeners is troubling, and this is the result.  A station's demise started when they did not want to participate in Sanctity of Human Life programming in light of the Schiavo case has led to its demise.


"Focus on the Family Too Political," WND, 18 December 2003.

"Issues, Etc.," Lutheran Public Radio, 20 August 2014.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mockery of faith

The time-honoured tradition of sporting events, especially in the Deep South with its solid Biblical roots, opening with a prayer is regarded as mandatory before the event, a moment to pause to the Creator for what He has blessed the land and to protect the competitors.  Pocono Raceway began offering chapel (Protestant) and mass (Catholic) services for competitors since 1971, when Mario Andretti discussed the issue with Rose Mattioli, the matriarch of Pocono.  Since 1974, the Indianapolis 500 has done such, with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis having the honours annually save a few exceptions (Oral Roberts and Billy Graham).  Since 2001, all regular-time starts (not accelerated because of weather) in NASCAR have started (after the pregame show) with the minister's invocation.

And sometimes, thanks to a few ministers who forget the solemnity of the occasion (as we've seen in Gladeville, TN during an Xfinity race that was the final one for that circuit), and even in popular culture, it has been mocked.  And Joe Saward, of all people, entered the mockery of prayer services at sporting events in a recent discussion. In August, Dorna, which organises MotoGP television broadcasts, yanked the audio from the public address system at Indianapolis when the minister's invocation was happening, much to the ire of Fox Sports 1, which understands the lay of domestic broadcasts is to include the minister's invocation, which has been time honoured at the Brickyard for 41 seasons.  During the Formula One race in Austin, Leigh Diffey made the standardised motorsport protocol of "Let's go trackside for the opening ceremony," and the broadcast went to the National Anthem from a Got Talent winner (either Got Talent or The Voice of Holland winners perform, a request of NBC).  No invocation.

If it isn't clear that the roots of the United States are deeply embedded in a belief in God from the days of the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers, it was clearly evident in how mocked that faith is to others.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Flashback Friday: Public Radio returns to its roots

Local NPR Radio Station Announces New "All Membership Drive, All the Time" Format

(Pocatello , Idaho) -- KSPD, Idaho 's largest public radio station, announced yesterday that it is moving to a new "all membership drive, all the time" format as of March 1st.

Station Manager Philip T. Lucre announced the new format is in response to recent audience analysis. "Our rating figures show that people love membership drives," says Lucre. "The drives might seem like they're boring, tedious, even numbing, but we're finding that people just keep listening. Better yet, they keep sending in money and membership pledges, and we're very happy with that."

KSPD's most recent membership effort resulted in contributions of more than $20 million to the non-profit station, which is also underwritten by major foundations, local business sponsorships, commercials, tax breaks, the sale of services and merchandise, donations from large corporations, and state and federal tax dollars from the American people. "We're not talking golden goose here," said Lucre, "but it's certainly a winning formula, bottom-line, cash-flow wise. We couldn't do what we do without our listener's support. They know we're a non-profit and that we're counting on them."

Why do people keep listening to people asking them to send in money? Lucre believes it creates a drama that people find compelling.

"Our membership drives are great entertainment," he says. "You've got the tension built up by our self-imposed goal deadlines, people wondering if we're really going to make it. You've got the stories and personal testimonies finely crafted by our public relations department. The ringing phones in the background add a certain electricity. It's really good stuff, a lot better than any music, news or intelligent conversation you used to hear on the radio."

Lucre refused to answer questions about KSPD's recent purchase of four additional radio stations in California and Arizona , or its reported majority ownership of new office buildings and a resort casino being built in Winnemucca, Nevada . "We're a large business entity, and we need to maintain solid economic resources," he did say. "And besides, whatever we do has one main goal in mind: to provide the people of Pocatello, Idaho the kind of radio programs that they love and that meet their local needs."

Originally published February 20, 2007

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gordon Lightfoot sings - er, sinks Christmas

Heard this on one of our local stations the other day, but this is the same recording, from a different station. It's true that nobody does Christmas quite like Gordon Lightfoot, right? Now that Thanksgiving is past, let the Christmas music begin!

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