Friday, March 29, 2019

Wish I'd written that

hat a city it was for its public buildings, as immense as grey granite mountains. They built them big just to remind you of the importance of the state and the comparative insignificance of the individual. That just shows you how this whole business of National Socialism got started. It’s hard not to be overawed by a government, any government, that is accommodated in such grand buildings. And the long wide avenues that ran straight from one district to another seemed to have been made for nothing else but columns of marching soldiers."

— Philip Kerr, The Pale Criminal

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Throwback Thursday: what's in a word?

While I was working out tonight, I noticed one of the gym television was tuned in to CNN (you don't think I'd have my own TV tuned to that, do you?), and their political shout show had the headline "Trump Can't Stop Tweeting."

Now, since I wasn't listening to the show or reading the captioning, I don't know if they meant he can't stop tweeting, or won't stop tweeting. One implies a psychological condition which, I'm sure, the network's political correspondents are eminently qualified to diagnose; the other, a determination (or at least stubbortnness) on the part of Trump to do whatever he wants to do, regardless of the consequences. I lean toward the second interpretation myself, but the phrasing certainly implies the first one. But CNN wouldn't intentionally want to imply that now, would they?

That would be kind of like - oh, I don't know - saying that CNN was obsessed with Donald Trump. Does it mean they have a clinical fixation on him, or that they're merely operating with a political agenda against him?

They report, we decide.

Originally published August 7, 2017

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Opera Wednesday

From a 1963 telecast of The Bell Telephone Hour, the great Joan Sutherland—La Stupdenda—sings "Ah! Sento mio bell'angelo" from Bellini's I Puritani, an opera that Sutherland and her conductor husband Richard Bonynge helped rediscover.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Giving up the pope for Lent

If you’re wondering why I haven’t written anything about the pope lately—well, it's Lent. Usually you think about giving up something good, or fun, for Lent. Cookies, chocolate, movies, things like that. But you also give up things in order to improve yourself, and nowadays just about any time you read about the pope, it becomes a near occasion of sin—an opportunity for anger, for detraction, for an entire variety of sins. So think of this as me giving up kvetching for Lent—or trying to, anyway.

In truth, though, there doesn’t seem to be much more to be written or said. As you probably know, I haven’t been shy about letting you know I’m not a fan of the incumbent pontiff; I even wrote a book about it a few years ago. It isn’t that there’s no news being made, nor is it that the pope has lost the power to shock or dismay. Sadly, that kind of thing still seems to be a frequent occurrence. Perhaps one can be heartened that more and more Catholics appear to be waking up to the damage this pope and his sycophants are doing to the Church, and yet the people who now hear the music aren’t, by and large, those who can do anything about it.

No, while I haven’t given up hope that things will change, it seems to me that just about everything that can be said about it has been said. It’s all so much preaching to the choir now, trying to find different ways to say what you’ve already said ten or a hundred or a thousand times before. It’s kind of like pounding your head against a wall, and I have enough problems with headaches that I don’t need to incur any more self-inflected damage.

Much of what has happened during the tenure of Pope Francis serves as a reminder that good and evil both exist in the world, and that there’s very little left that can truly surprise. You read a lot from people who use words like “breathtaking” to describe the latest egregious statement from the Vatican, but it’s easy to forget that there have been bad popes before, and we’ll probably continue to have them until the end of time. It is true that social media has a way of magnifying this evil, of expanding upon it and bringing it to light in a way that wasn’t possible with the Borgia popes, for example; it’s also true that a bad pope can do far more damage to the world today than he might have been able to do in the past, due to the ways in which the world is more interconnected than ever. So I’m not trying to minimize things when I say this, nor am I suggesting that people shouldn’t be angry with what they hear coming from the Church. One more sex scandal, one more coverup, one more statement of heterodoxy, one more line being drawn in the sand.

And the point is—what? That there simply isn’t any more to be said. There can be no more surprises to come from Rome, only continuations of what has come before. There is no pleasure to be derived from the umpteenth reference to the latest outrage, and no way to dress up the outrage that accompanies it. It’s tiresome, and it’s fatiguing. It’s also demoralizing and despairing, things that no Christian should allow to creep into his or her life.

In the end, then, there’s just not much that can be said. But whether it’s the first time you’ve heard it or the hundredth, that doesn’t prevent it from hurting, and confusing, and angering. It doesn’t prevent the honest person from acknowledging the wrongs that have been done, and it doesn’t prevent the dishonest to reiterate that there’s nothing to see, move along. It has, perhaps, accelerated the process of separating the wheat from the chaff, and that’s probably a good thing.

Otherwise, it’s more like a scab that, having passed the stage of causing pain, now itches with an insistence that is unstinting. We want to scratch that itch, we want to do it badly, even though we know we shouldn’t. It takes a lot to resist scratching it, picking at it until it begins to bleed. The itching, however, is a sign of change, of healing. If we leave it alone, it will eventually go away. But it feels so good to scratch it, just for a moment… (If I were to scratch, it would probably look something like this.)

For me, there’s no pleasure in picking at that scab. I still read about what’s going on; ignorance is never a good response to anything. It’s just that, well, I’ve run out of things to say about it, and about him. Until something new comes along, silence is the best I can muster. Would that the pope tried silence as well, even just once. It would save us all a lot of picking and scratching.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Responding to IThe Wall Street Journal's Question on Jackson and Kelly

Ia recent opinion piece that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, in light of the Michael Jackson (Leaving Neverland) and Robert Sylvester Kelly sex abuse reports, the article asked the question if people could listen to music of Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kelly following sexual abuse cases with both artists, with the article asking if art can be separated from unethical artists. That question was magnified even further as our shop is across the street from a Oneness Pentecostal church that meets in a building that at one time was a conservative Protestant church that ran from 1956-2001 and was sold to the Trinity deniers whose minister is now the city's mayor, allowing New York City Mayor de Blasio to speak (and later dance to Mr. Kelly's ditty from “Space Jam” that became one of his better known songs) about the praises of his socialism. What made it worse for me was how he defiled a building that historically made my youth and allowed it to develop a Biblical worldview. It raised the question as it was an expansion of the question I asked as I saw things that made my youth all disappear, asking that question in a 2011 post.

Back to the opinion piece that is the subject of this post, I returned to Albert Mohler comparing Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. He called Bach the perfect artist, while noting Mozart and Beethoven had serious flaws in worldview, calling out Mozart's Requiem for being unsatisfying even though it is moving, which I have noticed singing the piece myself, and Beethoven's pantheism makes it not suitable to use in church. In a like manner, knowing Leonard Cohen's worldview and how his “Hallelujah” is an ode to sex makes the song inappropriate in church, leading to one incident where I walked out of a church service over its performance. Similarly,  I called out “Spirit in the Sky” from Norman Greenbaum for a blasphemous lyric that required me to cite Romans 3:23 to compare the lyric to the verse, leading to a flame war where the song was defended.

In regards to The Wall Street Journal opinion piece with the question being asked, the doctrinal malpractice of Hillsong (including rejecting Biblical sexuality) we referenced in January makes it inappropriate. In light of the question over Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kelly, an incident at church occurred when a soloist sang (with karaoke) a hit from an immensely popular 1980's and 90's pop star who divorced his wife and became a “proud” sexual deviant during a Palm Sunday service. His morality cannot be separated from his music, and I was out of town that day so I did not see this. Nobody questioned it, but the congregation cheered without knowing the truth.  Add to that the numerous cases of Kundalini spirit teachings of Bethel and the false teachings of Hillsong, the answer to The Wall Street Journal opinion piece is no, since the false teachers, or in this case, the artists whose songs are being sung, are being funded with these pieces.


“Can We Listen to Michael Jackson and R. Kelly the Same Way Again?,” The Wall Street Journal, 19 March 2019,

Courtney Gross, “Mayor Spends Sunday Courting Potential Democratic Voters in South Carolina,” Charter Communications NY1 News, 11 March 2019,

Friday, March 22, 2019

Wish I'd written that

Vince was a grown-up. A lot of guys my age sported hair twice the length of mine, wore chokers of faux jade and faux teak, and favored bracelets carved from rhinoceros bone. Vince wore a watch. A thick, heavy, expensive watch. If he were ever kidnapped, he could turn that watch over to his captors and walk free, and they'd probably give him twenty dollars for cab fare home."

— Rupert Holmes, Where the Truth Lies

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Pope Francis Releases NCAA Bracket; Has Gonzaga Winning It All

(VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21) - Pope Francis announced his NCAA Basketball Tournament bracket today, and revealed that he thinks the championship will be won by the Gonzaga University Bulldogs.

In an exclusive interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Holy Father admitted that although he hadn’t had as much time to work on his bracket as he has in the past, he still feels confident about his selections.

“Gonzaga,” Francis said without hesitation when asked who he had winning it all. “I just have a feeling this is finally their year. Marquette could give them some trouble in the Sweet 16, but it they can get past them, I think they will go all the way."

In addition to Gonzaga, Francis’ other Final Four picks are Saint Louis in the East, Seton Hall in the Midwest, and defending champion Villanova in the South. When asked if he'd chosen Gonzaga because of its Jesuit connection, the Pope, himself a Jesuit, smiled. "We must stick together," he said. “I cannot say anything bad about the other teams, though. After all," he added to laughter from the reporters present, "who am I to judge?"

The Pope revealed that he had discussed his predictions with Emeritus Pope Benedict during a phone conversation the two had on Tuesday, but declined to reveal who the former Holy Father had winning the title. “I know he followed the selections avidly on Sunday. He and I disagree on some of the regions, but if he wants to share his choice with the world, I assume he will do so at the proper time.”

Francis expressed appreciation that this year’s Final Four, to be played in Minneapolis on April 6 and 8, does not conflict with Easter. “With the liturgies on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, it can be difficult to keep up with the results. Thankfully, this year that will not be the case.”

The Pope chuckled when asked whether his election as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church means that his bracket is now to be considered infallible. “The Catholic faithful are under no obligation to follow my predictions,” Francis said. “In fact, my colleagues in Buenos Aries might suggest one would better off if they didn’t. But it has been a good month so far - perhaps it is a sign that my luck is changing.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Opera Wednesday

No matter what it is that's bothering you, an overture written by Mozart can usually cure it, or at least make you feel a lot better. Case in point is this charmer, the overture to Die Entf├╝hrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio), first performed in 1782.* It's hard to imagine it not being just as sprightly to audiences at its premiere as it is to us today.

*The role of the benevolent Pasha, a non-singing part, was often played by Werner Klemperer, our beloved Colonel Klink.

This performance is by the Vienna Symphony, under the baton of Metropolitan Opera principal conductor Fabio Luisi, in a 2006 appearance in Japan. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dan Jenkins, R.I.P.

This story dates back more years than I want to remember. My wife and I were sitting around in the living room one night reading. I don't remember what it was she was looking at, but I had You Gotta Play Hurt, the new novel (at the time) by Dan Jenkins. It was about a sportswriter named Jim Tom Pinch, who bore a suspicious resemblance to Jenkins himself; Pinch was part of Jenkins' wacky universe, having appeared as a supporting character in Jenkins' best-known novel, Semi-Tough, as well as several others. This was a chance for Jim Tom to star in a story of his own.

My wife was telling me something funny from her book, and in retrospect what I should have done was stick a finger in my book and turn all my attention to her. Not that I was not paying attention, mind you (you don't stay happily married for 26 years by doing that), but by letting my eye continue to drift down the page while I listened to her, I was dooming her dooming her story to eternal obscurity.

The end of her story and the end of the paragraph I was reading came more or less simultaneously. As for what happened next—well, the only way to really do justice to it is to say that I completely, utterly, lost it. I had been confronted with a scene that was beyond Jenkins's usual level of absurdity; it was so outrageous, so utterly ridiculous, that there was no possible way I could have reacted otherwise. I suspect it was the reaction Jenkins was hoping for; I like to think that when he'd finished the paragraph, he might have read it over and had a good chuckle himself. I was able to go one better than that, though—perhaps several times better.

Had my wife not known me as well as she does, she might have thought I was suffering from convulsions, or was perhaps about to throw up. As it was, there was nothing she could do but sit there and watch as I spent five minutes, maybe ten, cackling hysterically. Have you ever seen the famous clip of Steve Allen laughing uncontrollably at some blooper he'd committed? If you have, you'll know what I mean. And if you haven't, here it is. The description calls it a "laughing fit," and that's what I suppose it was. I was trying to keep the tears from getting the pages of the book wet, and whenever I tried to tell her what it was I'd found so unaccountably funny, I was only able to get a word or two out before I started all over again. She wasn't offended that I was ignoring her story, I don't think. I'm a serious enough person that I think she's usually just happy to see me laughing. It was, without question, the single funniest thing I have ever read, seen, or heard in my nearly fifty-nine years on this planet. And what was so funny, you might ask?

I'm not going to tell you.

Don't be offended, though; the point of fact is that in the twenty-some years since this happened, I've never told anyone what it was that was so funny. The only person I ever did tell was my wife, when I was eventually, after repeated attempts, able to get it all out in a somewhat coherent form. She agreed that it was, indeed, very funny, although perhaps not quite as funny as I thought. But that was, to this day, the last time I've even read that scene, let alone tried to describe it to anyone else. I suppose I'm afraid I'll find out it wasn't as funny as I originally thought it was, which would not only be disappointing, it would ruin a story I've been able to live off of for nearly thirty years.

I kind of doubt that, though. Maybe I wouldn't react the same way I had that night, but then again maybe I would have. That's the kind of writer Dan Jenkins was, after all. He was, quite simply, the greatest sportswriter ever, and I'm not even going to try and equivocate by adding "one of the greatest," or "arguably," or "possibly," or any other way of trying to hedge my bets. He was the best of all time, period, and he'll continue to be for as long as his writing is in print.

Dan Jenkins died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 90, and he certainly doesn't have to worry about his work being forgotten. I'm not going to attempt to recap his career; I'll leave that to two excellent articles, here and here. And for those of you who say this story has been more about me than about Jenkins, I'd answer that this is perhaps the way it should be. One of the reasons Dan Jenkins was a great sportswriter was that he was also a great storyteller. And what better way to remember a great storyteller than with a story of my own, one that in the end really tells you more about him than it does about me. I'd like to think that he might even have enjoyed my story, although he might also have given me one of those sideway glances that you could almost see, so vividly did he describe them.

I daresay that as long as people read sportswriters (and I mean real sportswriters, which you can still find from time to time, not what passes for writing nowadays), they'll be reading the books and articles and (yes) tweets by Dan Jenkins, and learning, and laughing. What writer could possibly ask for any more of a legacy than that?

Come to think of it, maybe I'll read that story again, after all. My bet is that it will still be just as funny as it was all those years ago All the same, I'd better make sure my wife isn't trying to read to me at the same time.

Monday, March 18, 2019

All Class -- Thanks, Debi!

We discuss television often, primarily on the other blog, but this report that came to my attention tonight is a time to say "thank you" to a legend who just announced her  retirement after 43 years.

Debi Chard, the affable Iowan who moved to South Carolina in the early 1970's, serving part-time as a legal secretary to Jean Toal and was a radio news reporter in her early career, moved down 26 in 1976 and joined WCSC-TV as a reporter and anchored the Saturday news broadcasts. Her career later made her a top-level anchor and allowed her to be the fourth cog in WCSC's legendary Bill Sharpe, Charlie Hall, and Warren Peper newscasts when it expanded in 1991. After 43 years, she announced 
her retirement on their Thursday evening newscast.

I remember growing up watching her do news.  Now she's retiring after a wonderful career.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Psst - are you running for president?

Pardon me, but by any chance are you running for president of the United States? The reason I ask is because it seems as if just about everyone is, so I didn’t want to offend you.

At least count, 581 people have filed with the Federal Election Commission that they are candidates for president, or at least contemplating it. John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, became the latest to jump in the pool this morning. There’s the incumbent, of course, along with growing number of (past and present) congressmen, senators, governors, mayors, authors, businessmen, self-help gurus, and maybe Mabel who lives just down the street. They aren’t all credible candidates, of course; some of them are what would politely be considered longshots, candidates for whom everything would have to break the right way for them to have a chance. Some of them are vanity candidates, people who want to see their names in print and don’t really care if they get any votes or not. Some of them are delusional, like those you read about who get six or seven of their friends together and suddenly they pronounce themselves the new pope. And some of them are Marianne Williamson. Or Cory Booker.

For each of those 581 candidates that have thrown their hats in the ring, you can bet there are two or three others who’ve thought about it, or would like to. Why so many people pine for the nation’s top job is something of a mystery to me. I wanted it once myself, and planned for it, but that was when I was young and impressionable and heavily involved in politics. As Saint John (and Ingmar Bergman) might have said, I was looking through a glass darkly. Thankfully, I’ve since given up those childish dreams, but it appears a lot of people haven’t. It seems to me as if the job itself is nothing more than four (or eight) years of grief, with your opponents calling you all sorts of horrible and grotesque names, and your allies spending half their time stabbing you in the back while they work on their plot to succeed you. Honestly, it’s as if House of Cards was some kind of how-to show on the DIY Network.

It’s true that one has to have a healthy ego to succeed in politics; it’s equally true, it seems to me, that one doesn’t become interested in politics, doesn’t take the step into seeking elective office, without harboring, in the dark recesses of the mind, the dream of hearing “Hail to the Chief” as they stride across the stage with the crowd’s cheers ringing in their ears. And then the light turns green and the car behind honks, and real life intercedes.

We complain about the problems facing the country, we elect someone to deal with them, and then we spend four years complaining about the job that person is doing. Actually, we spend about four days complaining about it, and then candidates start lining up to take the job away. When John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon announced their candidacies for the presidency, they did it in the same year as the election. That’s the way it was done back then. Sometimes a candidate didn’t even make the announcement official until the time of the convention. When Jimmy Carter became a candidate two years before the 1976 election, people laughed at him. (We know who had the last laugh, don’t we?) Now we have candidates who drop out before even one primary vote or caucus ballot has been taken. Debates are held a year before the primaries. There’s even talk of first-in-the-nation New Hampshire moving their primary to December.

The results of this new-style politicking are obvious. By the time the election actually rolls around, voters have become detached from the process; everyone’s sick and tired of both the campaigns and the candidates, and sometimes I think people who vote early do so just to get the damn thing over with. You know what they say about familiarity breeding contempt; perhaps it’s something candidates should think about. We already know that, no matter who wins, people will be angry about the result. There will be allegations of voter fraud, murmurings about abolishing the Electoral College, even suggestions that we go to a parliamentary form of government. It’s a great way to kick off four years of presidential leadership, isn’t it?

There’s only one logical answer for this, and it’s so obvious it’s staring us right in the eyes.

It’s that we need more candidates for president. About 152 million, to be precise. That’s one estimate as to how many people are eligible to run for president of the United States, and from that it’s clear we’re nowhere near the number we really need. Seriously, it’s evident that nobody is happy with the choices before us, that everyone knows best, and that anyone we disagree with becomes manifestly unsuitable for anything, let alone the presidency. The answer, therefore, is for everyone to become a candidate. Even those who aren’t yet qualified—hell, why stand on ceremony? There’s probably a 50/50 chance the Supreme Court would agree, so why not try it?

If everyone was a candidate, and everyone voted for him or herself, then the election would end in a deadlock, with each candidate having one vote. At that rate, you’d only need to convince one person—a friend, family member, spouse or lover—to switch their vote, and you’d have the election in the bag. You’d be in good company; 24 times the winning candidate has failed to achieve 50% of the popular vote, from James K. Polk and Abraham Lincoln to Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. You’d also guarantee that as president, you’d have at least a 50% approval rating from your supporters. (Unless you have some kind of self-hatred complex.)

So c’mon, get with it! Time’s a-wasting; only 610 days until the 2020 election, and there’s a lot of work still to be done. At this rate, maybe I’ll even give it another shot.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Video trailer for "The Electronic Mirror"

I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in Minnesota we're still in the throws of winter, with another five inches of snow today and lows in the single digits. On a night like this, I can't think of anything better than to sit next to a roaring fireplace with a good book. Unfortunately, I don't have the fireplace, but I do have the book for you: The Electronic Mirror

Here's a brand-new trailer for The Electronic Mirror, in case you need help making up your mind:

My thanks as always to the fabulous Carol M Ford Productions for the production and narration of the trailer for The Electronic Mirror. Even if you've already got the book (and if you haven't, why not?) be sure to give it a look.
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