Monday, April 30, 2018

How Renée Fleming's "Carousel" and the WWE's "Greatest Royal Rumble" have a common denominator in Richard Rodgers

enée Fleming's appearance at a Broadway production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Carousel has been in the news recently, but Mr. Rodgers, a legendary composer of musicals, was in my head as news discussed a pay-per-view in the pseudosport of "professional wrestling" with the intercalated Royal Rumble in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, similar to the Olympic Games of 1906.  How fake wrestling associates itself with Richard Rodgers comes through a writing partner of his prior to his association with Mr. Hammerstein, Lorenz Hart.

In the Rodgers and Hart musical Babes in Arms (1937), Billie, a woman who visits the leading male character (Val), sings the song in question, which thanks to the popular music circuit, has lost most of its lyrics and its original intent (yes, Mr. Sinatra is guilty of removing the lyric and reference!).  Billie, played by Mitzi Green when it debuted, is from the coast, and sings what we call the aria in question, "The Lady is a Tramp," which over the years and even a "sanitised" version of the entire musical was produced, which sadly has taken away toe references in the song.  Even Steafani Germanotta's version, like Frank Sinatra's and Ella Fitzgerald's versions, alter the lyrics away from the original (Derek Jeter, who is referenced in the Germanotta and Bennett version, was not even thought when Rodgers and Hart wrote the song!), but there's one part of the song that easily catches the adage "professional wrestling is fake".

The lyric in question of "The Lady is a Tramp" that though written in 1937 could easily refer to professional wrestling and how it is losing the pay-per-view battle to mixed martial arts today states, "I like a prizefight that isn't a fake."  Since a professional wrestling match is predetermined, and the players know who is to win ("go over"), that legally means the match is fixed, and legally it's a fake.  Would Billie want to see a WWE match or a UFC match, if you listen to the song with that lyric?

Here is the song, as it is from a production of "Babes in Arms" that allows us to see the original song (not the Sinatra or Germanotta versions) in its historic New York references.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Saving Alfie

he Alfie Evans story is a horrifying example of what ensues when the state denies parental rights." -- Albert Mohler.

This from Mario Diaz:

"How does a nation reach a point where it will essentially kidnap a child from a loving, functioning family, yank that same child off life support, deny him care as he unexpectedly fights to stay alive, and then block attempts by a foreign government to rescue him and provide him top-notch care free of charge? How does a great civilization sink to such barbarism and tyranny?" -- David French.

This from The Federalist.

In these columns, we see what happens when children are a ward of the state, and not controlled by their parents.  The state can impose what they want at any time to advance their agenda.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The sacredness of life

With the tragic events now occurring in England regarding the life of Alfie Evans, it seems like a good time to look back at an opera and its pointed message about the importance of human life.

There are a few operas that, in an oblique way, make reference to contemporary issues even though they were written decades, or centuries, ago.  One such example is Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow), the magnificent 1919 opera written by Richard Strauss, with a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.  The crux of the story centers around an Emperor and Empress who are unable to conceive; this is symbolized by the fact that she is without a shadow. The King of the Spirit World decrees that unless she gains a shadow before the end of the twelfth moon, "she will be reclaimed by her father and the Emperor will turn to stone."

As the story progresses, a scheme unfolds to obtain the shadow by stealing it from a peasant woman, thus depriving this woman of motherhood.  The peasant woman is urged to "sell her expectations of motherhood, dissolve her marriage [to a husband who desires children] and pursue a life of individual self-fulfillment."  As this article indicates, the notes accompanying productions of this opera generally relate the moral of the story as being "one person's happiness cannot be bought at the price of another's," yet it is clear that a major component of the story - and its moral - concerns the ability of a woman to conceive, the glories of motherhood, and the existence of the souls of unborn children

[Spoiler alert!] The opera concludes happily, odd enough for an opera; the Empress decides to reject the stolen shadow ("I will not rob humanity from someone else"), the peasant woman's shadow is returned to her, and for her act of generosity, the Empress too receives a shadow.  Both couples  - the Emperor and Empress and the peasant couple - sing of their joy and humanity, and praise their unborn children.  On occasion, the chorus assumes the guise of unborn children, making the analogy even stronger.

Ten or so years ago, the Los Angeles Times, one of the worst newspapers in the United States, committed a hilarious error by changing a review of the opera, which the critic had described as "an incomparably glorious and goofy pro-life paean," replacing the term "pro-life" with "anti-abortion." One hardly knows where to begin with this comedy of errors; the mindless policy in the paper's style sheet, which apparently dictates that all references to pro-life should be changed to emphasize the negative; the blatant inaccuracy of the edit, since the abortion message in Frau is inferred when transposed to today's times and there is in fact no discussion whatsoever of abortion in the libretto; or the idea that being pro-life should be assumed to refer to abortion only and exclusively. You can read more about it here.  Idiots.

The point is, Die Frau ohne Schatten does not deal with abortion directly; it deals with the sacredness of human life and the importance of being open to its creation.  And while it is not an anti-abortion screed, as some might think, is explains one of the fundamental reasons why the sacredness of human life is important and why, among other reasons, abortion is wrong.

Anyway, enough with the politics.  Regardless of what you think, there is glorious music in this opera, a sample of which can be heard in the 2014 excerpt below, with Valery Gergiev and the World Orchestra for Peace, although you can get other videos that include subtitles, through which the power of the story becomes even more apparent.

Originally published October 14, 2015

Friday, April 20, 2018

Flashback Friday: Here comes de judge

I realize we're constantly being admonished nowadays to be non-judgmental; "who am I to judge?" should strike a familiar tone. But what exactly does that mean, and how does it fit in to our modern culture and lifestyles

You could write a book on that question alone, and probably more than one person has by now, but I'll simply remark that I've always understood the Biblical injunction against judging to be aimed more at one's soul than at their actions. "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." (Matthew 7:1-2)

In other parts of the Bible, we're told not to worry about what others think of us as long as we act in righteousness for the Kingdom of God.* The suggestion behind it all is that the only opinion that really counts is God's, and He will judge each and every one of us based on what is inside us and how that has manifested itself in our thoughts, words and actions. As humans lack the ability of divination when it comes to reading a man's soul (with the exception of some extraordinary saints), I read this as telling us we should not judge one's character, one's soul, one's state of sin.

*Though we're also reminded not to engage in scandalous behavior which can cast aspersions upon our sincerity, or that of Christians in general. We may see this come into play in the next few paragraphs.

At the same time, however, we're also told to admonish our brothers and sisters who have fallen into sin (first making sure, of course, that we are not guilty of the same thing). For that to happen, it follows that we have some authority to draw conclusions about what a person does, based on that person's external behavior. We don't know for sure whether or not a person is in a state of grace, for example, or if they're possessed by truly evil thoughts and desires, but if they go around acting like a jerk, being impolite, doing nasty things to people, I think we could quite rightly infer from that behavior that this person, regardless of the condition of their soul, has some problems. And if we're that jerk, behaving that way with other people, we should expect that those kinds of conclusions are drawn. If we're a professing Christian, then this becomes cause for scandal, because by our own faults we encourage people to draw such conclusions. Again, being a jerk doesn't mean you're going straight to Hell (do not pass Purgatory, do not collect 500 indulgences). We don't know that.

But when we say someone is loathsome, when we deplore their actions and call into question the sincerity of their expressed values, what we're most often speaking of is this process of making a conclusion based on observed behavior. I think most of us are aware of that, and we aren't literally pronouncing judgment on someone's soul by saying something like that. "I find him grotesque, repulsive, etc." may be an inelegant use of language, it may be intemperate, but most reasonable people know what they mean when they say it, and most reasonable people know (or used to, anyway) what it means when they hear it. It means, "I find this person's actions to be [insert adjective of your choice]."

What I'm getting at with all this is that there's a lot of nasty behavior going on in social media, and in the circles which I frequent much of it is coming from the internecine conflict which our beloved Holy Father seems to have instigated, or at least brought to a head. Austin Ruse wrote about this very well in a recent article with reference to several Catholic bloggers who like to make grand pronouncements about people with whom they disagree. The question arises: how should one behave when finding themselves faced with such a person? Well, perhaps the best thing is not to find yourself in that position in the first place, which is why long ago I deserted the Catholic blogosphere in favor of the much more civilized world of classic television. I still run across these people, though; one can hardly keep up-to-date with current Church events without doing so. The political blogosphere is even worse. And as far as Catholics talking about politics - don't get me started.

It is not an exaggeration for me to say that I do, indeed, find the behavior of such people to be loathsome. In doing so, they transform themselves into loathsome individuals, and to draw such a conclusion based on what they've said is, in many cases, fairly temperate when compared to what these people themselves say and do. But am I judging them? Am I consigning them to the nether regions, where it's very hot even in wintertime? Of course not, and when they use the typical rhetorical tactic of attempting to turn the tables on anyone who disagrees with them by saying, in effect, "So's your old man!" they should be resisted.

What do I mean by that? Well, in fact, there often is no moral equivalence involved; calling someone loathsome is not the same as saying they're going to Hell. These people often are passing judgment on others, accusing them outright of sin, of not being true Catholics or even Christians. If they want to call someone names, then that's their right, and I'm not going to stress over it - except, as I suggested earlier, to advise them to by a thesaurus or something else that can help them expand their vocabulary. Their behavior certainly can be described as scandalous, and to the extent that they provoke intemperate responses in others, they deserve the lion's share of the blame. If one voices a negative opinion of this person's behavior - well, what other conclusion can you draw?

In the end, I don't know if I've accomplished anything with this. I vowed to write a certain number of words at this site this month, and this is part of it. I haven't engaged in any of these verbal fisticuffs, nor do I intend to, but I get highly put out when I read it, and I do think the people who do this are - here's that word again - loathsome. Am I judging them? No, and I'd thank you not to accuse me of that if you're tempted to. Am I drawing conclusions based on what I've seen, heard or read? You bet I have - and as long as such people continue to act that way, I'm going to continue to draw those kinds of conclusions.

For those of you out there who are like these people - don't you have anything better to do? For all that we moan about social justice warriors and how everyone's too sensitive and the world is filled with rage, it really is difficult to drive most people to anger. Mainly, they want to be happy and to be left alone. If these people worked half as hard at doing something good (or at least something benign), they might find their own world to be a much nicer place.

Originally published August 10, 2016

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Golf Channel Redux: What's airing and weather hurry-ups

It caught my attention when an NBC Sports presser appeared regarding coverage of the Séries éliminatoires de la Coupe Stanley regarding the annual flipping around every Comcast channel.  As I noted which channel carried two games on a recent night, an old Brent Bozell column on television was ringing its truth again.

Cable channels such as Discovery, Learning, History, Arts & Entertainment, and Bravo have replaced their entire programming from the themes they were intended to becoming another brand of reality television channels, which Americans seemingly chew up.  The channel once called American Movie Classics has given up on that classic ideal and gone to original TV-MA programming and shows that may not reach that level of "classic" that most believe, movies produced during the Production Code (which TV-MA programming would violate under the classic code).  And of course, Viacom's Paramount Network has its own story that's a disaster that the World of Outlaws despises that channel to this day.

NBC's "air everything on every different NBC Channel" during this round of Coupe Stanley usually means NBC Sports Network, USA, Consumer News and Business Channel.  This year, they've added the one channel you'd least expect the Série éliminatoires to air -- Golf Channel.  What in the world was the Golf Channel being replaced with two Séries éliminatoires de la Coupe Stanley matches "going through" as the scoreboard says before returning to normal programming Thursday morning.

But that's one of two cases of issues over that channel.

The second relates to the controversy when the local newspaper announced the winner of the Royal Bank of Canada Heritage at Hilton Head's Sea Pines Harbor Town.  Because of weather issues, organisers rushed the start to threesomes at 7 AM with the final group starting at 9 AM, hoping to finish before 2 PM to beat the storms expected around 3 PM.  In order to do the hurry-up start, the Golf Channel's final round coverage, and later CBS's coverage of the final hours, went on tape, with the winner already announced on The Island Packet before the CBS part of the broadcast was to begin.  Golf's coverage of Jon Rahm winning the European Tour Open de España ran to noon.  After a one-hour pre-game show, coverage proceeded to taped coverage of the early rounds on Golf, then on CBS.  CBS had only taped coverage of the previous night's Professional Bull Riders 15/15 Bucking Battle airing in the early afternoon.

By the time viewers were watching the golfers on the front nine in the early half coverage on Golf, 小平智応援団 was battling 김시우 for the plaid jacket in sudden death (it was 2 PM).  小平智応援団 defeated 김시우 around 2:30 PM, when the news was released -- and the Golf coverage had not reached the turn for the leaders (Poulter and 김시우).  By the time CBS coverage began, it was over.  This was the second time in four years (2015) that the same situation had happened where a rushed start meant taped coverage for the Hilton head stop.

Should the PGA Tour work with NBC (Golf Channel) and CBS to adopt NASCAR's 2017 rule change for television?  During the 2017 season, NASCAR made a rule change stating if weather forces the issue, they reserve the right to start a race up to one hour (from 2 PM to 1 PM, for example) earlier than the scheduled time.  If the PGA Tour, NBC, and CBS agree (remember the U.S. Open, on Fox, the Masters, on CBS, and The Open, on NBC, are not PGA Tour sanctioned events), then the networks should be available to swap blocks so network golf coverage can start at 12 Noon to 3 PM if necessary on the network where live coverage of the final 6-8 holes can be done on network television instead of being pushed to tape on both sides?  In this case, Golf would move early coverage to USA or CNBC from 9 to noon, and then the CBS or NBC coverage starts at noon only if there is active play.  The Premier League used to be on CNBC often when NBCSN had Formula One, but when Formula One moved to Sky Sports F1 (which despite it being commercial-free, viewers are noticing Friday practice is no longer broadcast on television), that opened up NBCSN to having Premier League coverage on just the one channel.  Golf overrun for either the PGA Tour or European and Asian Tours can easily be used in a beat the weather situation.  The PGA Tour and its broadcast partners need to be able to move golf coverage starting with the Florida swing to have that flexibility to beat the weather just like NASCAR has done to allow the networks to use 12-3 ET instead of 3-6 ET in weather situations.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Throwback Thursday: A unique way to get ejected from a match...

This, I kid you not, is not from The Onion, although it reads like it. (I would have been very proud to have written this for one of our "This Just In" pieces.) From The Guardian:

A Swedish footballer has hit out after being sent off for breaking wind during a match – with the referee accusing him of “deliberate provocation” and “unsportsmanlike behaviour”.

Adam Lindin Ljungkvist, who was playing at left-back in the match between Järna SK’s reserve team and Pershagen SK, was shown a second yellow card late on in what local media called “bizarre circumstances”.

“I had a bad stomach, so I simply let go,” the 25-year-old told Länstidningen Södertälje. “Then I received two yellow cards and then red. Yes, I was shocked, it’s the strangest thing I have ever experienced in football.

“I asked the referee, ‘What, am I not allowed to break wind a little?’ ‘No,’ he replied … I don’t get it but maybe he thought I farted in my hand and threw the fart at him. But I did not.”

Opposition striker Kristoffer Linde told the paper: “I was standing a good distance away but I heard the fart loud and clear. It’s the strangest thing I’ve seen on a pitch, and I’ve been playing football since I was eight years old.”

The referee, Dany Kako, confirmed that Ljungkvist had received the second yellow card for breaking wind, explaining: “I perceived it as deliberate provocation. He did it on purpose and it was inappropriate. Therefore, he received a yellow card.”

Ljungkvist told Aftonbladet: “To provoke anyone with a fart is not particularly smart or normal. It’s nonsense – I just broke wind and got a red card. I spoke to the referee afterwards, I was annoyed, but there were no bad words. I just said he was a buffoon.”

Kako said he had experienced similar incidents before. “Once there was a player who stood and peed next to the pitch. I showed him a yellow card, too.”

This is a good example of why satire gets harder to do every day - I mean, if you can't count on this being a spoof, what can you depend on anymore?

Originally published June 27, 2016

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Opera Wednesday

I was listening to this opera yesterday morning on the SiriusXM Met Opera channel, which is probably why it's on my mind today. It's Puccini's beautiful Manon Lescaut, which proves that gorgeous music can overcome a stupid story that ends in the heretofore unknown desert wastelands of Louisiana.

This is the great Plácido Domingo as Des Grieux, along with Renata Scotto in the title role of Manon, in a 1980 performance by the Metropolitan Opera.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Who knew?

What with the recent debut of HBO's documentary on Andre the Giant, I thought it was good to return to this piece from a few years ago. I wonder if this tidbit was included in the program?

When Andre Roussimoff, better known as Andre the Giant, was twelve years old, he was banned from riding the school bus because he was already the size of a large adult.  So in order to get to school, he had to depend on rides from their neighbor, Samuel Beckett.  Yes, the "Waiting for Godot" Samuel Beckett. (Is there another one?) As Brian Phillips notes, even if you're the author of a world-famous play, "It’s still useful to have a truck."

Originally published October 16, 2015

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Opera Wednesday

Nothing succeeds in opera quite like a well-written Mad Scene, and Donizetti wrote one of the best in his opera Lucia di Lammermoor. And one of the best interpreters of that Mad Scene is the great Joan Sutherland. Here she is in her native Australia, in a performance from 1986 with the Australian Opera. Although it doesn't say so, I'm guessing the conductor is her husband, Richard Bonynge.

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