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.

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