Thursday, February 28, 2019

Wish I'd written that

A mystery is something that is beyond human knowledge and comprehension, which means that I should be wasting my time in even trying to investigate it. No, this case is nothing more than a puzzle, and I happen to like puzzles."

- Philip Kerr, March Violets

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Poetry Wednesday

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
     It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
     It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
     And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
     And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
     There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
     Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
     World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

-- "God's Grandeur," Gerard Manley Hopkins (public domain)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Green with envy

I figure I've seen two movies in theaters over the last three years*, and both of those were documentaries, so it's not surprising that I haven't watched the Academy Awards for many years. There's just no connection there for me anymore; it would be like watching India's version of the Emmys (they're called the ITA Awards, in case you were wondering) to find out what the most popular show in Delhi is. That doesn't mean that I've completely stopped paying attention to the Oscars, though; when you write about television, even vintage television, the entertainment pages have a way of making themselves known to you.

*Excluding RiffTrax and the Metropolitan Opera, of course.

I'll admit, though, feeling a certain sense of satisfaction Monday morning when I found out that Green Book had won the Oscar for Best Picture. It's not that I'm a big fan of Green Book, or a fan at all; nor do I have anything against the other contenders, such as Roma, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Black Panther. Since I haven't seen any of them, it's not as if I had a dog in the fight.

So why did Green Book's win please me? Primarily because it irritated so many other people. I'd read for months about the hate for the movie that existed in certain quarters: that it was a feel-good movie that ignored real problems in the country; that it was a warmed-over Driving Miss Daisy; that it presented a saccharine view of race relations in America; that it wasn't particularly factual. It was the kind of vituperation that usually indicates fear—fear that this pariah of a movie might actually come out on top. If I'd thought more about it, I'd have taken it as a sign to phone a bookie and place a few bucks on Green Book to win, and then I wouldn't have to worry about finding a new job.

For instance, critic A.O. Scott, writing in The New York Times, referred to Green Book as "a Road Trip Through a Land of Racial Clichés," and went on to describe it as "a sentimental tale of prejudices overcome and common humanity affirmed; that its politics will be as gently middle-of-the-road as its humor; that it will invite a measure of self-congratulation about how far we, as a nation, have come."

But—what's wrong with that? Aren't these supposed to be the kinds of things we want? I thought it was a good thing to overcome prejudice and affirm common humanity, and even if it hasn't happened universally, shouldn't we celebrate that it might at least have happened between a couple of people? One step at a time, right? And what's wrong with middle-of-the-road politics—we're always being encouraged to reject extremism, aren't we? As for being self-congratulatory, I think such critics could use a healthy dose of perspective; while we as a nation may still have a ways to go before becoming the country we hope to be, only someone in total denial would suggest that we haven't come a long way from the '60s, or the '40s, or the '20s. Honestly, it makes you think these people don't want things to get better, because then they wouldn't have anything to scold about.

Scott's arrogant review points out precisely why I was glad Green Book won, why so many non-critics saw the movie as a likable story with occasionally pointed humor. The more perspective columnists point to a backlash against the anti-Green Book campaign, not unlike that which swept Donald Trump into office in 2016. Perhaps it's not a like-for-like comparison, but the left seems hopelessly, myopically, unable to comprehend that most people don't like to be told what to think, and they certainly don't like to have someone condescend to them. We're not fools—we know Green Book isn't a documentary; we understand that America isn't a perfect nation. Does that mean we can't go into a darkened theater, or sit in front of our televisions for a couple of hours, and just enjoy ourselves with a movie, without being lectured to, or hectored, or scolded for chuckling at a joke we think is funny?

The idea that movies have to have a politically progressive viewpoint, that they have to confront social issues by espousing a comfortably leftist ideology, that you cannot be entertained without having to sit through some kind of political indoctrination—well, it's a cliché to say that it would be humorous if it weren't so sad, but it's true. There is no enjoyment for this kind of person unless it comes with a devil's bargain: buy your fun, get a free helping of social justice. It's a BOGO from hell.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't be demanding in our standards for better forms of entertainment. Maybe Green Book really isn't a very good movie; more than one critic suggested that it was a mediocre year for movies and that none of the nominated films are without significant flaws. But even if that is the case, surely there has to be a middle ground between the kind of movies on the Hallmark Channel and the Goebbels propaganda machine.

Or maybe not. Maybe that's the kind of "middle-of-the-road" entertainment that people like A.O. Scott so scornfully ridicule. For them, there is only one kind of movie, only one form of entertainment, only one candidate to vote for, only one way to believe.

And as long as they think that way, there will always be Best Picture winners like Green Book for them to hate.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Jussie's twirl

Not long ago many of my liberal friends were describing the Jussie Smollett attack as emblematic of what is happening in the country at large.

Turns out they were right ­– just not in the way they thought.

You know both stories by now. First there was the phony one immediately embraced by a media foaming at the mouth over another chance to write “Just another day in Trump’s racist America.” The one circulated at light speed across social media, equating a red MAGA hat with a Klansman’s white hood. The one tweeted about by Democrat presidential candidates and pinhead celebrities who never miss an opportunity to display another virtue signaling flourish.

And now we have the actual story. Smollett staged the attack, paid the attackers, and then lied about it to police officers and his Empire costars and ABC’s Robin Roberts.

His actions were, indeed, emblematic of 2019 America. We live in a time when the aspirations of many are not wealth or knowledge or compassion, or the attainment of morals and values that contribute to a purpose-driven life. Instead, the objective is victimhood.

How does one explain why a talented actor on a successful prime-time series, earning $65,000 an episode, would choose to cast himself as the innocent prey of two racist, homophobic Trump supporters?

The short version is he was unhappy with his salary. How many of you would be driven to desperation by a weekly $65,000 paycheck?

The longer and more troubling motivation is that victimhood has become a coveted status. It is sought after by the successful with the same zeal real victims exert to escape their plight.

Politicians have long been the worst offenders. Perhaps they still are. We are supposed to admire whichever candidate had to walk the most miles in the deepest snow to get to school every day.

Then we have the Elizabeth Warrens and Rachel Dolezals of the world, who seek to establish their bona fides by claiming association with a historically oppressed group, with no basis for doing so. They want the sympathy (along with any professional benefits) without the suffering.

If it seems worse now it’s because, for the past two years, the partisan hacks that dominate mainstream media have made it their mission to remind women, African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, and pretty much anyone who is not white, male and Christian that they are oppressed citizens under a lunatic racist president.

That provides a convenient excuse for anyone who didn’t get the job or was not admitted to their dream college, or who has any number of grievances that likely could be overcome by patience, concentrated focus and harder work: It’s not me, it’s you. You’re the reason, Mr. President, society, racist/sexist America, that my life isn’t going the way I planned. My fate is out of my hands. I’m just another victim.

Jussie Smollett shouldn’t fit that category. As a gay African-American he holds legitimate membership in two historically oppressed groups. But instead of celebrating how he overcame the remnants of those societal barriers, and becoming a role model for others hoping to do the same, he decided he wanted more. And the best way to get there was to become a victim. Career advancement via what both Cory Booker and Kamala Harris called a “modern day lynching.”

Now that Smollett has become an actual victim – of his own greed and stupidity –he’ll finally get to leverage his black, gay status. The Don Lemons of the world are already rallying to his defense despite his actions. “In his heart he’s a truly good person,” said actress Sheryl Lee Ralph. And after being indicted for filing a false police report, and diverting law enforcement resources in a city where real assaults occur every minute, Smollett was allowed to post bail and head back to work.

Roseanne Barr wrote a racist tweet, and was immediately fired. Is that worse than committing a Class 4 Felony? Might she also be a good person at heart? Didn’t much matter in this case.

“(The) moral authority that comes from being victimized has replaced the desire for admiration or respect for some act of heroism,” wrote Matt Lewis on The Daily Beast website. “I’m not sure what exactly that says about a society, but it can’t be good.”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Wish I'd written that

I think it’s time the NBA just skips the National Anthem. I’d rather not hear it at all if I have hear a complete rewrite. Last year it was (Stacey Ferguson) and I thought that was horrible, but I am shocked that (Anthony Hamilton) would even dare to rewrite the entire song. I could barely recognise the most recognisable song in America. Francis Scott Key would not be happy."

-- Heather Payne, former Point of Grace singer, on Anthony Hamilton's performance of the National Anthem at the NBA All-Star Game at the Spectrum in Charlotte.

That's a new member of the Star Mangled Banner Club.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Retro TV Friday

As most who read the blogs know well, we are huge fans of classical music, whether is the Minnesota Opera, South Carolina Philharmonic, or opera companies from colleges.  Saturday begins the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, with Fox beginning its coverage Sunday with highlights of Saturday's Masters Agility Championship, airing after Daytona 500 Qualifying, which oddly only puts two cars into the field.

A few years ago, when Fox first acquired coverage, they began doing a documentary, NFL Films-style, on the Westminster Dog Show.  This clip of the dog show was entertaining.  Set to Grieg's Peer Gynt, Opus 23, No. IX, the full documentary film features the first dog at a normal pace.  As more dogs go through the course, the music speeds, and at the crescendo of it, you can sense the pressure.  As you might expect, NFL Films-style slow-motion scenes penetrate as the dogs jump through the obstacles.  I don't think pop music could ever be used for this scene of dogs through the course.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Opera Wednesday - ring those bells

Roberta Peters, who made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera at age 20, was 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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The media gets it wrong AGAIN!

A University of Michigan music professor and his alleged love interest (a relationship that is a SIN per Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1) were arrested for sexual assault.  But what heavily offended us was how that lover was listed as his "husband" when men cannot have husbands, they can only have wives.  Both men were busted for sexual assault.  And this sin was sin, and as thinking of a vintage television show, it's Truth or Consequences, he exchanged the truth and the consequences is arrest.

Please, AP, it is NOT the man's "husband".  The other man just a perverted live-in lover.

Read these Bible verses to confirm what he did was sin.

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." -- Leviticus 18:22

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."-- Romans 1:18-32
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