Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bach's Christmas Oratorio: A celebration of three Sundays

In 2013, noted Protestant seminary president Albert Mohler discussed a panel that dismissed rap as "unworthy" for the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In defending the dismissal of rap, he stated form matters in music, and the Biblical view was of good, beautiful, and of the "very being of God."  Specifically, he compared three composers in his column.
Mozart, in Dr. Mohler's view, was a genius, which interfered with art.  He also called out the Austrian composer's worldview, while it was not specifically mentioned in the original article, was found to have been Freemason-influenced, which Pope Clement XII had banned Catholics from participating.

His evidence was the well-known Requiem in D Minor, which I have sung twice in Summer Chorus, which is called an emotional piece but unsatisfying.  Beethoven, he noted, was deeply rooted in the Enlightenment and pantheism (a belief in many different deities), which the seminary leader calls it the primary reason why his music is highly inappropriate for the church.  However, Johann Sebastian Bach is the perfect example.  He called out the proportion and purpose where form and message are on target with an appropriate mix of all.  When pieces are written that include the note "Soli Deo Gloria" -- Solely for the Glory of God, it fits within his references.

In these words as written by Dr. Mohler, we present to you over the next few days the most appropriate series for Christmas, Bach's Christmas Oratorio.  Rejoice!  The Saviour is Born!  In Other Words celebrates Christmas the most appropriate way, with the greatest sacred musician of all time.

Work Cited:
Albert Mohler, "Thinking About Thinking About Rap -- Unexpected Thoughts Over Thanksgiving,"  December 1, 2013.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Choosing sides

Rod Dreher wonders why we always feel compelled to pick sides, this time 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?

Originally published February 21, 2014

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Opera Wednesday

Have you ever noticed how so many of opera's greatest hits contain no vocal music at all, just instrumental? Here's a prime example of one of the most well-known and loved of such pieces, the meditation scene from Massenet's Thaïs. Odds are if you've heard any classical music at all, you've probably heard this in a concert, and not even realized it was from an opera. Here's one such performance from the violinist Sarah Chang.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

So churches won't open on Christmas Day, but yoga studios, movie theatres, restaurants are, while the NBA and NFL play!

Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, as it usually is once every five, six, or eleven years, has developed into a disturbing fad for many hip Life Enhancement Centres.  Many of these “megachurches,” as they call themselves, full of rock bands and self-help teachings, have set the sad standard for too many churches, typically by reducing themselves to just the one worship service (no Bible study), but many are  locking the doors on Christmas Day Sunday morning and not doing services on Sunday.  Many of these venues are doing a gigantic party on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Why are they giving Sunday over to entertainment the way we've given away Sunday to legalising alcohol sales?  The NBA has four games, the NFL has two games, movie theatres are open for the last of the major releases for Oscar consideration, the restaurants (especially sports bars) are open for the NBA and NFL games on the big screen (remember the early Christmas Day game is on the NFL Network which isn't available in many markets), even Hindu temples known as yoga studios are open for Christmas Day classes (at least two in one city in this state are open for classes when many churches have closed for the day).

And meanwhile, churches stay closed.  I cannot imagine how churches have given away their Sundays to entertainment venues open Sundays when churches are not, as we saw the Sunday after Hurricane Matthew, and now Christmas Day.  Do they even understand their meaning anymore?  Why is the secular allowed while the sacred is taking even the Holy Day off?  Last time one Life Enhancement Centre shut for Christmas, their "Christmas" services consisted of a rock concert featuring the sounds of one group whose name I cannot say playing a fad dance song of the era (no joke).  What might they try this time?

Will they ever get the message?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Opera Wednesday: Ring those bells

Roberta Peters, who made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera at age 20, remains to this day one of the most enduring and most loved of American sopranos. She was also a big hit on television, appearing a record 65 times on the Ed Sullivan Show. Well, why not? She not only had the beauty for television, she had a killer voice as well. If anyone could bring opera to the masses, Roberta Peters could.

In what looks to be a television broadcast dated September 29, 1952, Peters sings the Bell Song from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé. It's a treat.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Church music regressing?

Churches are posting signs about their choral Christmas shows, as expected.  Some churches are having their annual "Singing Christmas Tree" with an aerial artist flying above the sanctuary and house bands playing rock music.  Other churches are doing full theatrical shows, while many others are having full rock concerts, even replacing church Biblical preaching and teaching with their concerts.  But most churches, sadly, as I drive the hills and dales of our state, have regressed into singing whatever comes out of Warner Music or Universal Music karaoke kits.  It seems the sound Christmas songs we have known as singers are being whisked away because they are not trendy, and do not fit within the postmodern church ideals.  For adults, it may be as simple as a Universal "Christmas music" kit that boasts of being sung in one practice with karaoke accompaniment of the latest album from their mega-star artist.

For children, it may be simply making moves and lip-synching songs that are provided from the two aforementioned secular giants.  Whatever happened to simply having a 25 kid strong choir singing sacred music with the church musician and then doing handbells?  Have we regressed to the point that, as Albert Mohler said over a decade ago, the young boys are not singing in church while young girls are dancing to whatever is the Top 40 hit as church music?  Sometimes, you wonder if a new generation, not knowing of the past, have decided to try again thinking most will not remember the past, and their tolerance is only for whatever comes out of the annals of the entertainment giants, without any knowledge of the masters of sacred music, especially with their government school music courses teaching only Top 40 pop hits because they are "politically correct" as the true masterpieces have religious overtones, which offend the usual suspects of the elites.  And if you only use seasonal references to temperature, then are you offending those who drive Commodores, other Supercars, and play footy?

Think about it.  Whether it is church music regressing as leaders continue to sell out their programmes to the big entertainment giants, or leaders choosing to make dancing to pop music more relevant and take young singers out, leading to a generation that will not sing in church (in those Life Enhancement Centres with loud rock bands, there is no congregational singing, as it is one loud rock concert) or have dance troupes that do the worst of the worst, we have a serious problem.  Why are the denominations and leaders in these cathedrals following along with the fads of Big Entertainment?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Flashback Friday: Are megachurches the problem?

In Steve Skojec's article, which Mitchell linked to some time back, 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.

Originally published October 16, 2013

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Did anyone catch these coincidences?

During the election season, we referenced a 1964 Car and Driver article regarding a mock Presidential candidate in a popular motor racer.  When we researched archives further, we were able to note some very interesting series of photos that I found connected that legendary motor racer and a current motorsport superstar.  Can anyone note the reference?

  5. (Note the livery has also taken a touch of another legendary American motorsport legend. It takes a look at the reverse image car to identify that legend.)
  6. (And this is the car that connects both motorsport legends that raced the national racing colours.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Opera Wednesday

Tis the season, and as a writer at Opera News pointed out some time ago, there is very little opera connected with Christmas other than Amahl and the Night Visitors. The Metropolitan Opera, for instance, seems to rotate an abridged English version of Mozart's The Magic Flute with Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel, and while each of these has some very pleasant music, they're more of "family" operas, the kind of thing you do for the week between Christmas and New Year's, than anything that's truly seasonal.

So why not turn to Rimsky-Korsakov and his 1895 opera Christmas Eve? Maybe the story isn't about Christmas per se, but it does take place on Christmas Eve, and there's snow! It also has some lovely music, as demonstrated in this suite drawn from the opera. It's conducted by Ernest Ansermet, with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, in this recording from 1956.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The tables turned

ith INDYCAR's Road to Indy Shootout this week (December 6-7 as I write), the last slot was offered to the Australian Formula Ford champion.  But the winner of that slot will be the driver coming in second.  The reason is the FF champion for 2016, Leanne Tander, is ineligible.  She is 36, 11 years older than the cutoff (25).

Mrs. Tander has now completed an incredible accomplishment.  There have been fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, and siblings winning motorsport championships.  But this is a first among well-recognised titles in motorsport.  The former Leanne Ferrier has now joined her husband Garth, a three-time Bathurst 1000 champion who won the same Australian Formula Ford title in 1997, as the first husband and wife champions of a well-known motorsport championship.

(This is the Supercars video, what Australia heard, in the year that Yanks got the race live with our own crew.  You'll see video of the new Formula Ford champion in this clip.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

One of the longest-running (and still active) franchies in television began in April 1975 with the debut of "Himitsu Sentai Gorenger" on TV Asahi, from Toei, that is now in its 40th season, has run every year since then (the 1978 movie was the only year no television series aired), seems to have taken a hold in the United States, especially since a 1992 series began airing in the United States.

But what kids do not understand is that the franchise was intended for adults, as the original series air time was Saturday nights, which Stateside is the least popular night of television.

However, it seems NASCAR took a hold of that Toei series in running a series of four Chase-themed promos (three of them were well themed, but the last was disappointing compared to the other three, but probably done that way because NASCAR had to finish the theme before the Thanksgiving holiday) that had the Japanese superheroes influence.  Can you see the Super Sentai influence in these videos?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Opera Wednesday

Last month I showcased Gian Carlo Menotti's one-act opera The Telephone, and later in December we'll look at a different version of his famed Amahl and the Night Visitors, but this week it's one of his last, and most bizarre, efforts - the opera Help. Help, the Globolinks! Fortunately, it's subtitled. Eh; give it a try!

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Some thankful thoughts

Pop Culture Über Alles.  The Washington Times criticised the Obama Administration's most recent set of Medal of Freedom winners, calling it based on many of his contributors, and celebrated popular culture figures.  One he glorified was a sexual pervert actress that he boasted helped bring down the nation's laws, replacing them with a dictatorship run by sexual perverts.  What a disgrace.  The article notes how we have lowered our standards, and when helping advance the elites' agenda is higher up than defending the nation, what gives?

Tempers, Tempers.  Another Thanksgiving Day has passed, and we give thanks to God for what we have.  In our area, we had over 1,000 runners competing in the three Thanksgiving races (110 in an 8k, 216 in an accompanying 4k, and an uncounted mile run at a golf course, according to officials, counted over 400, with the other race a 5k with over 600 runners that did the distance;  I chose the longest distance and just missed the 8k record I had set Saturday by 77 seconds), thankful that they chose to go racing on the most popular day for running in the country.

But the tempers erupted before something bad was happening at Lucas Oil that night.  Malls were full of people fighting for items, and there were both serious injuries and sadly a fatality at one of those events.  Whatever happened to thankfulness for what they had?  Are we running into a materialistic era where the thoughts of President Lincoln, and even our Founding Fathers, have been lost in today's Commie Core teachings where we don't give thanks to God anymore for our bountiful harvest?

More Red Lights.  For some reason, Bernie Ecclestone's idea to spice up Formula One in 2017 is to cause another three-minute delay to restart every race, and this time teams approved it.  The plan is at the end of the caution period for the cars to line up on the grid lines, stop the cars, turn on the five red lights, and restart the race again.  The reason for the proposed standing restart rule is to ensure each restart is like a whole new race.  No "restart zone" where the leader can pull a gap on second in the zone, no playing games with the safety car during the caution, just wait a few minutes.  This might create a bigger fiasco with more clutches burning up, more incidents on the restart, and the rest.  Why does this make sense?

Don't D'Souza Her?  I wonder if Mr. Trump is not wanting to prosecute Mrs. Clinton as to prevent a Dinesh D'Souza-style incident where the Obama Administration put Mr. D'Souza in prison on political grounds.  Personally, I can see why he does not want a repeat of that.  Otherwise, in 2021, or 2025, we could see more political persecutions, which would not be something that would be good to the nation.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Will you take gravy with your football?

Thanksgiving is a time of many traditions – family, food, and football. With the exception of New Year’s Day, I don’t think there’s any holiday more closely associated with a sport than Thanksgiving Day is with football. You’re going to be reading a lot about football this week, including Sunday’s Grey Cup, Canada’s football championship – but right now we’ll settle for one day, and the history that goes with it.

Football has been around on Thanksgiving almost as long as the game has been around. According to this site (which you have to take with a grain of salt; at the very least there seem to have been some English translation challenges) college football championships on Thanksgiving were common by the late 1870s. By the mid-1890s, there were over 5,000 Thanksgiving Day football games across the nation. Most of these games were played between rival high schools or colleges – some of them were even exhibitions, played after the teams’ regular seasons had ended. Football on Thanksgiving was not without controversy, as this story indicates - some thought the game cheapened the sacredness of a day that was meant to give thanks.

As professional football grew in popularity, it was natural that the pro game would appear on Turkey Day as well. Throughout the early days of the NFL, it seems as if almost every team had a game on Thanksgiving. One of the most significant pro games in history was played on Thanksgiving 1925, when the college great Red Grange made his professional debut for the Chicago Bears. Playing before a Wrigley Field crowd of 36,000 – at the time, the largest ever to see a pro football game – Grange’s Bears played their cross-town rivals, the Chicago Cardinals, to a scoreless tie. With this game, both the NFL and its Thanksgiving Day tradition were here to stay.

The Lions website has this great page on the origins of Detroit's Thanksgiving tradition, where the Lions have played every Thanksgiving since 1934; a large part of my childhood holiday memories consist of getting up early on Thursday morning to watch the Detroit Thanksgiving parade on CBS, followed by the morning kickoff of the Lions game. Now, as any football fan can tell you, the Lions haven't been very good very often, and their Thanksgiving Day game is frequently the only time all year they're seen on national television. We are assured by the announcers that the Lions really get up for this game, knowing that it's their one chance to be seen nationwide, and on occasion the Leos really do surprise us.

The Lions sack Packers QB Bart Starr again
They certainly surprised the Green Bay Packers in 1962. The Pack and the Lions had played every Thanksgiving since 1951, in a game that had become a tradition. Lombardi's 1962 Packers were perhaps the greatest Packer team of all time; they stormed through six preseason games undefeated, won 13 of 14 regular season games, and bested the New York Giants to claim the NFL title. Their only loss that season was - why else would I bring it up? - to the Lions on Thanksgiving. In one of the most storied Turkey Day games ever played, the Lions sacked Packers QB Bart Starr 11 times (including once for a safety) and totally dominated Green Bay en route to a 26-14 drubbing that wasn't nearly as close as the final score would indicate. (Apropos of the day, one sportswriter said it looked as if Roger Brown and Alex Karras, the Lions' two defensive stars, were ready to take Starr by the legs and make a wish.) It was said that Lombardi was so furious about that loss that he ended the annual Thanksgiving game against the Lions; the teams would play to a lackluster 13-13 tie in 1963 (three days after JFK's funeral) and would not play again on Thanksgiving until 1984.

I was too young for that Packers game, but I remember other classic and not-so-classic moments from Detroit: 1965, when Johnny Unitas led the Colts to a 24-24 tie (I don't know why that games sticks in the memory, but it does - I have a picture of it in one of my scrapbooks); the 1968 game, played in a sea of mud, as Eagles kicker Sam Baker booted four field goals to give Philadelphia a 12-0 victory; 1969, when in the middle of a snowstorm the Vikings' Jim Marshall picked off a pass and then flung it blindly over his shoulder to teammate Alan Page, who took it the rest of the way for a touchdown as the Vikings routed the Lions 27-0 Minnesota win. Frankly, the game lost some of its luster for me in the mid 70s, when the Lions headed indoors to the Silverdome - as you can see, so much of the game's mystique came from the elements; rain and cold, the dying grass and the dusty field, the snow in the air competing with the snowy black-and-white screen, all on a glorious late autumn afternoon.

The other traditional NFL game takes place in Dallas, and they've had their share of memories as well - Clint Longley coming off the bench for an injured Roger Staubach to lead the Pokes past the Redskins in 1974 (it was the high point of Longley's career, which ended after a locker-room fight with Staubach; you don't take a swing at a legend and live to tell about it), Leon Lett botching a missed field goal during a rare snowstorm in 1993 (there's that weather again!), giving the Dolphins second life and a winning field goal - but the game hasn't had the same buzz for me. I probably have better memories of the AFL's annual Thanksgiving games - the Kansas City Chiefs were often the home team, and there was frequently a night game to go along with the matinee. (During the late 60s there were four pro games on Thanksgiving, two in each league - and that didn't count the college games!) In 1965 the Chargers and the Bills, my two favorite AFL teams, played to a 20-20 tie in the nightcap which, coming on top of the Lions-Colts tie earlier that day, might explain why I remember both of those games.

As we mentioned at the top of the article, Thanksgiving Day football really began with colleges, and for so many years Thanksgiving was rivalry day in college football. Texas-Texas A&M, Mississippi-Mississippi State, Oklahoma-Nebraska. just to name a few. Sadly, at least on Thanksgiving, college football has faded from the scene, decreasing so the pro game can increase. But perhaps the greatest football game ever played on Thanksgiving was a college game - the epic "Game of the Century" that truly lived up to its hype, the 1971 showdown between #1 Nebraska and #2 Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.

Both teams came into the game undefeated (and I mean totally undefeated; the smallest margin of victory either team had had that year was 13 points), and had been ranked #1 and #2 virtually the entire season. Nebraska had the nation's #1 ranked defense, Oklahoma the #1 ranked offense. Nebraska, the defending national champion, featured QB Jerry Tagge and future Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers; Oklahoma had future pro great Greg Pruitt and their QB, Jack Mildren, who was perhaps the most gifted ever to direct the famed Wishbone offense. Rodgers dazzled early with an electrifying 72 yard punt return for a touchdown to put the Cornhuskers ahead.

Mildren, who was magnificent the entire day, running for two touchdowns and passing for two more, led Oklahoma back from two double-digit deficits, the last time with an audacious fourth-down pass into the end zone that put the Sooners up 31-28 with seven minutes to play and sent the crowd into hysterics. The exhausted writers in the press box were already calling it the greatest game ever played, but there was still one more act to come. On a day that left everyone totally drained, Nebraska had enough strength to grind out one more drive, taking the ball 74 yards and scoring with under a minute to play to pull out a 35-31 victory. After the game, Dave Kindred of The Sporting News summed it up best, writing, "They can quit playing now, they have played the perfect game." I'd like to say that I saw it all, but the turkey effect took hold of me sometime in the second quarter, and I awoke just in time to see the final Nebraska touchdown that broke the fans' hearts, and my own. (I've got that game on DVD though, which isn't quite the same thing but isn't bad.)

Will we see anything to match that epic, which Dan Jenkins called "The Cream Gravy Game," this Thanksgiving? Probably not, although we should note that the Packers are again playing the Lions on Thursday, and the Pack has its best record at this stage in the season since - you guessed it - 1962, the year of the famed thrashing at the hands of the Lions. So perhaps there is reason to hope after all.
At any rate, I'm willing to bet that at some time during the day on Thursday you'll find yourself with a turkey drumstick in one hand and the TV remote in the other, and I hope you'll take a moment to let that channel light on a football game, and hoist the drumstick in a silent tribute to the marriage of football and Thanksgiving, one of the greatest traditions we have to offer.

And so, from all of us here at In Other Words to you and yours, our best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Originally published November 20, 2007

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What we celebrate tomorrow

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.


By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Opera Wednesday

I don't know if there's any quantifiable evidence on it, but I'd suspect that no American composer's music is more associated with Thanksgiving than Aaron Copland, a great example of which is his Shaker-inspired piece "Simple Gifts."

Just for the occasion, here's a performance of that piece from a concert celebrating the centennial of Carnegie Hall, sung by the great Marilyn Horne and backed up by James Levine and the New York Philharmonic.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Flashback Friday: It didn't happen overnight

It was a cinch I'd be behind on all the urgent social issues of the day because I'd quit watching the news on network TV, not being a big fan of socialism, and I wasn't walking around with a pile of degrees in Communism from Berkeley and Harvard. I was just a simple patriot. And unlike your silly lefties, I wanted to see my country protected from the swarms of raving, subhuman assholes who want to kill us because they hate cheeseburgers, golf, football, soap and water, toilets that flush, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, clothing stores, and women who don't smell like donkeys.

It would also be helpful, I'd mention, if we could delaminate all the dunce-cap university professors who want to 'diversify' this and 'globalize' that, provide air-conditioned condos and SUVs for illegal aliens, healthcare and satellite dishes for armed robbers and serial killers, and can't wait to blame the United States for all the bad shit that happens in the world. They could globalize this. That was my basic message."

Dan Jenkins, Slim and None

Originally published November 19, 2014

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Limbaugh reflection

I remember the first time listening to a Best of Rush Limbaugh was on a typical Saturday drive, and I would catch his highlights. It was one thing in school, but another while listening to it over a quarter century.

In memory of the artist who died this week of cancer, I had to find a controversial song that artist did, and remembered during the furore of the song, Mr. Limbaugh used it as the theme of one of his most famous Updates. Remember which update it was? (Hint: The same genre is used for the current theme for the update.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Opera Wednesday

Long-time readers know my high regard for Parsifal, Wagner's final opera and my favorite opera, period. When it came time, many years ago, to purchase a CD recording of Parsifal, the choice was obvious: any recording conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch. Knappertsbusch (1888-1965) was arguably the greatest interpreter of Wagnerian opera; The New York Times referred to him as "unmatched" when it came to the composer's works, and the 1962 recording, which is what I purchased, is topped perhaps only by his 1951 version. Either one sets the definitive standard as to how to listen to Parsifal.

In this clip, we see Knappertsbusch in a rare television appearance from 1963, conducting Act I of Wagner's Die Walküre, the second opera in the Ring Cycle. We're all more familiar with the "Ride of the Valkyries." the opening of Act III (if you're not sure, think back to the helicopter scene in Apocalypse Now), but I'd forgotten how striking, how dynamic and hard-driving, the overture to that opera is. Here it is, with Knappertsbusch and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Playing the Trump card

On election day I'd posted the epic scene from Apocalypse Now where Morrison is singing "The End" while the helicopters swirl overhead. It wasn't meant to be a pessimistic bit, because I'm not a pessimistic guy. I'm a realist, which I realize some people believe to be a euphemism for pessimism. I don't look at it that way, at least not in my case; if it was, I'd have been listening to Leonard Cohen songs while I was writing it.

What I mean by all this is that this country has reached a precipice, and I don't know that it can be pulled from it. You may remember this piece from earlier in the year, in which Terry Teachout had wondered aloud whether or not America could continue as a country where people "talked past each other." I think now is the time to look at this again, particularly in light of the electoral map from Tuesday's election.

This first image is a visual of the electoral vote. Trump (the red states, natch) has won or is winning in 30 states, compared to 20 (plus the District of Columbia) for Clinton. It's a fairly stark map, because even though Clinton continues to lead in the popular vote (albeit by a very slim margin), not only does the electoral vote support Trump fairly decisively, you can see how Clinton's support (with a few outliers) is concentrated along both coasts, and stops around the Mason-Dixon line. But look at this second map:

This shows the vote broken down by county, again using the red/blue key. As you can see, red dominates the map, with pockets of blue here and there. And then there's this one:

You've probably seen this floating around, showing that half of the population is concentrated in a very select areas. I've no idea how accurate this is, but even if it's not 100%, that's not the point.

Here's the point.

Donald Trump won 30 states and the electoral college, but lost the popular vote. George W. Bush won the electoral college and lost the popular vote. Richard Nixon, in 1960, won 31 states (if memory serves correctly) and barely lost the popular vote. Except in cases of landslides, Republicans consistently (but not always) win a majority of states, a majority of counties in those states, but can still lose the presidential election.

What this indicates to me is that a growing number of the American people suspect that their votes no longer count, that a small number of states covering an increasingly small amount of landmass can determine the outcome of a national election. We could see a candidate win 35 or so states and still lose. He could win an overwhelming majority of counties and still lose.

Why is this important? Let me cite an example: a friend of mine called me Tuesday night. She lives in a state where only the three big population centers vote Democratic - the rest of the state goes Republican, but because most of the people in the state live in those three cities, the state almost always goes Democratic in the presidential election. She voted for Trump, "not that my vote counts," she added. In other words, she feels disenfranchised. And that's one person living in one city in one state. What happens if it reaches the point where entire states feel disenfranchised, where the residents of 35 states understand that it doesn't matter what they think, it doesn't matter what 70 of the states that make up the federation called the United States believe, that 30% of the states can dictate the nation's policy to everyone else. (And throw a hissy fit when they lose.)

That is not good; it's bad enough when individuals feel disenfranchised, but when entire states come to feel that way, then you truly have created "two Americas." A state that feels permanently shut out of the decision-making process can never truly feel like an active participant in the governing of that nation. That's what people mean when they talk about Balkanization, that's what they worry about when they look at countries where ethnic cleansing takes place. I'm not suggestion that ethnic (or ideological) cleansing is about to take place here, at least anytime in the near future, but I am saying that this is how nations break up. It's more than Teachout simply saying people talk past each other. It's that the credibility of majority rule itself is in danger, when that majority is concentrated in a small area relative to the size of the entire country, when a minority of states can dictate to the majority. It's called the tyranny of the minority, and it most definitely is on its way to happening here.

Tuesday's election is the exception that proves the rule, because if this continues, I don't know that we can see this kind of result again. The Californians are talking about secession, as Texans have done in the past, for the opposite reason. Perhaps it's time to let them go, to let them form nations that have more in common with each other than calling themselves a part of the "United States." Because the demographics suggest it's more like an enforced unity, and when we can't even agree on a common American culture or an agreed-upon definition of words upon which the debate can be framed, when we can't even agree on the existence of good and bad, right and wrong - well, there's nothing united about that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Music for the day

This doesn't mean that today is the end, that it will be all over after the election. Oh, no, my friend, it is just the beginning of the end. I'm not a pessimist - I prefer the term "realist" - but I feel this country has crossed the Rubicon in some fundamental way that precludes the possibility of going back. In that sense it truly is "the end." Regardless of who wins today, and I definitely have my favorite, from here on in it's full speed ahead to whatever awaits us. What that end will be, what form things will take in the future - well, that remains to be seen. Could the future be brighter? Of course! but again, that is not for today, the beginning of the end. Perhaps we will know when we reach the end of the beginning.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Throwback Thursday: on elitism

I am completely an elitist in the cultural but emphatically not the social sense. I prefer the good to the bad, the articulate to the mumbling, the aesthetically developed to the merely primitive, and full to partial consciousness. I love the spectacle of skill, whether it’s an expert gardener at work or a good carpenter chopping dovetails. I don’t think stupid or ill-read people are as good to be with as wise and fully literate ones. I would rather watch a great tennis player than a mediocre one, unless the latter is a friend or a relative. Consequently, most of the human race doesn’t matter much to me, outside the normal and necessary frame of courtesy and the obligation to respect human rights. I see no reason to squirm around apologizing for this. I am, after all, a cultural critic, and my main job is to distinguish the good from the second-rate, pretentious, sentimental, and boring stuff that saturates culture today, more (perhaps) than it ever has. I hate populist shit, no matter how much the demos love it."

- Robert Hughes, the former art critic for Time, who died in 2012.  Rarely have I seen anything in print that so accurately describes the way I view myself, or makes me wish I was talented enough to have written it.

Originally published August 7, 2012

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Opera Wednesday

If you've read this blog for any great length of time, you'll know that Gian Carlo Menotti is one of my favorite composers. Here's his whimsical opera buffa The Telephone, as done for Austrian television in 1968. What you're seeing here is not an excerpt, but pretty much the entire opera - I say "pretty much" because this runs a little less than 18 minutes, whereas the opera normally plays to about 26 minutes or so. While there might have been some cuts, this is still the essence of the story.

Though Menotti wrote the opera in English, you'll see it here in German, without subtitles. Despite that, I'm confident you're going to be able to figure it out fairly quickly. It has to do with a young man, Ben, who has something very important to tell his girlfriend, Lucy. Getting her attention, though, is something else...

The singers are Anja Silja and Eberhard Waechter, with Wolfgang Rennert conducting the orchestra of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Reflections on Audi's Exit from the 24 Heures

The news of Audi's exit from the FIA World Endurance Championship and the signature 24 Heures du Mans reminds us of the decision Volkswagen of America and Intersport to use an off-season NFL Films staff to do the Truth in 24 series regarding the French endurance classic.

What sticks out is how NFL Films took the techniques that the Sabols used for NFL head coaches and transferred it to the engineers of Audi in the French endurance classic.  Howden Haynes and Leena Gade became stars in their own right (and Volkswagen used Gade in a series of commercials) from the NFL techniques, which in the first film was not approved until the final 20 minutes before the race -- yet it was the NFL that gave Audi it's greatest moments by celebrating engineers, not the drivers.

Courtesy Volkswagen of America:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Classic Sports Friday

Friday's World Series Game 3 (CLE-CHC) will mark the first time a major professional sports championship has been conducted inside the Friendly Confines since the 1963 NFL Championship Game.  This is the seventh MLB championship (1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945 the others) at Wrigley Field, but there were five NFL championship games (1933, 1937, 1941, 1943, 1963) conducted  at the 102-year old venue.  While no Cub has ever won a championship since being in Wrigley, six times during the 50 years the NFL Bears were at Wrigley Field did they claim the NFL Championship before leaving in 1970. because of the NFL's new rules post-merger.

Memories of Mike Ditka and the Championship game here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

This Just In

(Artist's Conception)
Blizzard Watch Issued for Hell

(HADES, THE NETHER REGIONS) – A blizzard watch was issued for Hell today, according to representatives of the World Meteorological Association and the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. The watch will remain in effect through Wednesday, November 2, the date of the potential seventh game of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians.
“This is a very volatile front, with variables we haven’t seen in over 70 years,” explained meteorologist and Weather Channel personality Al Roker. “At this point we simply can’t predict what path the storm might take. By Thursday morning it could have expanded into a full-blown blizzard warning, or it might turn out to have been a false alarm.” Either way, Roker emphasized, denizens of Sheol will have to keep a close eye on developments.

The storm has the potential to create major disruption in an area not known for seeing cold weather. In fact, according to several experts, the effects could be catastrophic. “We’ve all heard the phrase ‘When Hell freezes over,’ said Catholic theologian and amateur meteorologist Matt Gillespie, “but the fact of the matter is that nobody has ever authoritatively stated just what would happen in that unlikely event. The odds may be a billion to one, but the apparent lack of a contingency plan on the part of the Masters of the Underworld points to extremely short-sighted thinking on their part. It’s no exaggeration to say this could be the end of everything.”

Meanwhile, in New York, Patrick Courtney, spokesman for Major League Baseball, denied that the organization should in any way be considered responsible in the event of such an outcome. In a prepared statement, Courtney stated that “Commissioner [Rob] Manfred wants to remind everyone that Major League Baseball has always considered itself a responsible partner in the efforts to fight climate change. The presence of the Chicago Cubs in this year’s World Series was not something that could have been predicted. Oh sure, there have been years when the Cubbies have come close, but they always managed to choke in the end, and we frankly thought there was no reason to think this wouldn’t happen again this season.”

Even if the Cubs fail to win the Series for the first time since 1908, forecasters cautioned that the eternally damned souls of Gehenna aren't out of the woods yet. “After all,” Roker says, “the Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948. I can’t predict there won’t be some flurries in the air.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Opera Wednesday

From Mozart's magnificent* opera Don Giovanni, here's the great Ferruccio Furlanetto as the Don's sidekick Leporello, reciting the names from the Don's little black book (which isn't so little).  It's "Madamina, il catalogo è questo" – "My dear lady, this is the catalogue". The performance is at the Metropolitan Opera; the conductor is James Levine

*Magnificent except for the ensemble ending, that is. I've always complained that after someone is dragged down to Hell, anything that follows is an anti-climax. Up to the early 20th Century, this scene was almost always omitted (the opera was written in 1787) - I don't know why producers think it needs to be done today. Oh well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Wish I'd written that

I started to feel just a touch of that malaise that has lingered in the air this year. You know that malaise, right? Maybe it’s the election. Maybe it’s the rapid way everything is changing. Maybe it is the division — people seem so repelled by each other that they don’t even try to talk. Maybe it’s that snarkiness so often eclipses wonder.

Maybe it’s that snarkiness and cynicism and weariness often eclipses wonder."

- Joe Posnanski, in Times Square, but he could be just about anywhere this year.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Postscript to Throwback Thursday

Postscript on last week's Throwback Thursday:

CrossFit sent a letter to the man who wanted to participate as a woman following the lawsuit, specifically pointing out the truth.  Here are highlights of CrossFit's letter, with proper (and correct) notes in parentheses:

We have not prohibited (the plaintiff) from participating in the CrossFit Games. We have simply ruled that based upon (this man) being born as a male, (he) will need to compete in the Men's Division. Competing in a sport is very different from the conclusory statement in the first paragraph of your letter, that "[t]hus, by all accounts, both physically and legally, (this male) is a female." This is simply wrong as a matter of human biology and if you can’t see that, there really isn’t much to talk about.

(This man) was born, genetically – as a matter of fact – with an X and a Y chromosome and all of the anatomy of a male of the human race. Today, notwithstanding any hormone therapy or surgeries, (this man) still has an X and Y chromosome. Thus, you’re statement is categorically, empirically, false.  (Editor's note - A woman has only two X chromosomes, and no Y chromosomes.)

The principle intent of the CrossFit Games is to determine the fittest man and woman on Earth. What we’re really talking about here is a matter of definition; of what it means to  be "female" for purposes of the CrossFit Games. We all have nothing but respect and support for (this man's) decision and how (he) sees (him)self. I also understand that in your client-centric world, your concern is entirely for what your client wants, however, we have an obligation to protect the "rights" of all competitors and the competition itself. We are scrupulous about ensuring a level playing field for the athletes. This is not "discrimination" any more than our decision to set Regional boundaries and age limits for the Masters division.

The fundamental, ineluctable fact is that a male competitor who (claims to have) a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and physiological advantage over women. That (the competitor) may have felt (himself) emotionally, and very conscientiously, to be a woman in (his) heart, and that she ultimately underwent the legal and other surgical procedures to carry that out, cannot change that reality. Further, the timing of her sex reassignment surgery (and any subsequent hormone therapy) does not change this discussion.

Finally, your comparison to the plight of African-American baseball players fails both in the physical reality and on its own terms in the particulars.  We’ll ignore the rather unsubtle offense, as well as your off-handed comment about the exclusion of (this man) being due to "ignorance and difficulty." Our decision has nothing to do with "ignorance" or being bigots – it has to do with a very real understanding of the human genome, of fundamental biology, that you are either intentionally ignoring or missed in high school.  (NOTE:  In the letter, CrossFit notes MLB threatened two teams for attempting to boycott the Dodgers as not wanting to play against Jackie Robinson.)


The name-calling used by the sexual perversion lobby has always been used to go after anyone opposed to their agenda.  I ask if I, who registers in South Carolina and has been associated with a "box" in the midlands, can represent Nevada in the competition.  Can a 21-year old compete in an over-40 division?

The full letter can be found here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Throwback Thursday: They're at it again

The "sexual freedom" fighters of the sexual deviancy lobby believe they have it won, and are using the common leftist propaganda terms to advance their cause.  Now this disturbing piece of news came across my wires this week.

A man who claims to be a "woman" after "gender reassignment surgery" has now sued CrossFit and The CrossFit Games for $2.5 million and the right for this natural male to compete in the events held at the StubHub Center, in the women's category.

A women read this news and had this to say about the absurd lawsuit"

Would I want to go into a women's locker room with a woman who has a (male sexual organ)? No. That would be out of line. (H)e chose to change h(is) body, CrossFit is trying to be respectful. I'm sorry, my personal opinion here is if you want to make a change in your life you gotta accept the consequences. Don't blame CrossFit for your decisions.

The disturbing point about this lawsuit was following domination by the Soviet-era Press Sisters in Athletics events at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, the IAAF imposed gender verification tests for the 1966 European Championships after concerns by national officials some East Bloc women participating in events were actually men.  This issue began as early as the 1930's, when US Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage asked for tests after suspicious performances in 1932 and 1936.  The Atlanta Olympics was the last time such tests were mandated, though the IAAF can (and has) request one if suspicion arises (and there has been in 2006). After Atlanta, there has been a push by the sexual deviancy lobby to outlaws the sex tests, which happened in time for the next IAAF European Championships.

The organisation that conducts the CrossFit Games is based in Carson, California, and the this questionable athlete is using the legal system and Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose strategy brought down voter-approved Proposition 8, to apply the state's nondiscrimination laws to force this competitor into the CrossFit Games as a woman.  If the courts treat this man the same way as the sexual deviants have favourable judges to play favourites to claim "you can't put a check on us" by overturning state constitutional amendments, we clearly have a judiciary that, in the words of the Heritage Foundation, is "playing favourites".  It would make no sense for a man to be competing in a women's competition.

[Editor's note: it was true then, it's truer now.]

Originally published March 25, 2014
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