Friday, June 26, 2009

So Ye Think Ye Can Dance?

Captain Bartholomew Burgundy works up to the finale in his week-long look at piratical prancing, in honor of the Buccaneers' Ball, and it's a doozy.

I often 'm accused 'f not workin' hard enough on me lootin' skills, or me swordfightin', 'r me navigational abilities. Aye, we can' all be Cap'n Jack, now... or even Cap'n Crunch, and I be as guilty 's th' next man.

Perhaps, tho', I'm no' as guilty as these buc'neers, who seem t' be practicin' their footwork mo' th'n their broadsides. Ah always wondered wot would happin' if they made Pirates Of The Carribean into a Broadway show.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beats Sailing Alone

Captain Bartholomew Burgundy gives us some reassurance -- I think -- that he is truly a man of the sea and not just some finely-dressed stowaway who likes to dance.

When ye talk 'bout th' greatest names in sailin', ye c'n mention a list as long 'n tall as ye mast. I 'ave sev'rl thot right ought t' be 'n any list, like Cap'n Cook (famous privateer 'n me hero), Blackbeard, Davey Jones, Jean Lafitte, Edward Teach, Henry Morgan, William Monson, Cap'n Hook, Horatio Hornblower, and "Skipper."

But at th' top of me list is tha' original sailor, Noah. Aye, the 'ol sea dog 'ad to contend wi' wind 'n rain 'n woiters mo' furious tha' ye coul' ever imagine. He got caught in th' original Perfect Storm! An' if that weren' enough, 'e 'ad t' corral and contain a ship fulla animals, double'a every one fer 40 days 'n 40 nights 'a rain. Ye talk a'bit a long voyage! We make 't a poin' t' pay tribute t' him ev'ry year at th' Buccaneer Ball.

An' 'e left us a lesson f'r our landlubbin' voyages. Ye see, Noah was th' original carpooler. Only 'e didn' call 't carpoolin' back then...

Avast! Who let th' skunk in?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ye Olde Pirate Polka

Captain Bartholomew Burgundy may be the only privateer I know who possesses as much knowledge about dancing as he does looting. But as a veteran of the upcoming Buccaneer Ball, I'm not surprised.

Lik' I be sayin' before, ye typical pirate 'as dancin' skills tha' can be a bit, shall 'e say, lackin'?

Bu' hoist me sail! It seem' there be mor than' a few good bucs who be enlightened to th' skill of dance! See th' mates of PEERS take th' lead:

I'd like t' see Cap'n Jack Sparrow try that!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pickin' Up Speed!

Captain Burgundy goes through his dance card as the Buccaneer Ball approaches.

Ye lookin' for somethin' excitin'? Lotsa runnin' and turnin' and steppin' about? 'Ow bout this from th' Newcastle English Country Dancers?

Ye probab'ly be noticin' I'm includin' Renaissance dancin' here. They be a little old fashioned fer '09... 1709, tha' is, but wha's three centuries 'tween mates?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Watch Ye Step!

All this week, in honor of the Buccaneer Ball, Captain Bartholomew Burgundy is sharing his favorite pirate privateer dances.

Ahoy 'n greetin's to ye all! Christopher be kindly donatin' some space on 'is blog (curious word, th't is -- sounds likea sailor's disease) for me t' talk to ye about me favourite pastime besides lootin' th' Spanyids.

Now ye gotta know somethin' 'fore we set sail. Mos' pirates I know 'ave the dancin' skills of a seahorse. 'Tis like they 'ave only one foot an' it's curled up undaneath 'em, savvy? Bu' not me, mates! Me pirate poppa insisted I learn th' ways of a gentleman, includin' the dance, 'n more than jus' a groggy jig. Bu' 'e never 'ad time t' teach me, being away raidin' an' such. So I sought out a dancin' master. 'E wasn't th' best for what I coul' afford, bu' I learned wot I coul.

Anyway, I won' bore ye wi' a long shanty. I 'ave a few dances, merry 'n refined, tha' I love, an' 'ere onea them. 'This one's called "Rufty Tufty," 'an is danced by The Vale Islanders:

Aye, somebody be needin' t' move th' urban dinghy!

'Ere's some Medieval folk showin' the' stuff:

I 'ear th' term "Rufty Tufty" refers t' soldiers who be a bit ragged around the edges to make 'em look more intimidatin'... sorta like us seafarers after a long voyage!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father And Son Blues

Cub Scouts taught me I wasn't an outdoor person, even though my father and I took several canoe trips together. We paddled down the Niangua River of southwestern Missouri. He had his camera equipment in a waterproof bag, and I had a life vest that could've slipped over my head. One year I accidentally left my shoes on the rocky bank where we shoved off, and I was amazed they were still sitting where I left them when we went to fetch them some eight hours later. A rainstorm hit us one year, filling up the boat with water and clobbering the bag of Chips Ahoy, among other unpleasantness. The camera equipment survived.

So much for that Hallmark card picture of father-son bonding. What really excited us was hockey. I never paid attention to the NHL until I moved with my family to St. Louis in 1989 and saw the Blues play on television. Back then, the Gateway City had only two sports going for it: hockey and baseball. Bill Bidwell had moved the football Cardinals to Arizona, forever engraving his reputation as one of the NFL's biggest knuckleheads. So during the winter, local sports fans crowded into the old St. Louis Arena to see Brett Hull score hat tricks.

Hockey delivered intensity other sports couldn't match. Football? Too long. Baseball? Too long and not enough hits. Hockey, paraphrasing the late George Carlin, is not a sport but three activities in one: skating, slapping a puck around on the ice, and beating the heck out of somebody. Television doesn't do it justice. Somebody can be slapping the puck on one side of the ice, while somebody's handing out a whupping in the opposite corner. And when you get that puck, you skate like a madman.

Dad got tickets through his job for at least half a dozen games every season for the next few years, taking my brother and I alternately to see Hull and his soulmate Adam Oates. These were the days of Glen Featherstone, Rod Brind'Amour, and Harold "The Enforcer" Snepts -- easy to spot from the nosebleed seats because he was the only guy who didn't wear those Tron-like head protectors. Vincent Riendeau could stop anything shot his way. Same for Curtis "Cujo" Joseph, and his backup Guy Hebert. The team called Hebert up from the minors, and some weird instinct told me this guy could deflect a lot of pucks. Sure enough, he quickly built up a record comparable to Joseph, so much so he started one night.

But let's get to why people really love hockey or hate it: the fights. St. Louis loved the Blues, and they loved the rivalry with Chicago. Blues-Blackhawks matchups guaranteed a full house, hard checking and fisticuffs. Most hockey fights are more like wrestling, since the ice makes it hard for you to get your footing to throw a punch. Most of the time getting the other guy's jersey off is enough for a decision, if you can't get your licks in. I remember one St. Louis Blue -- Featherstone, perhaps -- getting pummeled only to throw a roundhouse right and deck his opponent. "You could see the knees buckle from here!" the TV commentator shouted.

"The Barn" as people called it rocked with the stomping and volume of 20,000 fans. Dad and I had seats in a corner of the upper deck, which was just the right spot to see everything without twisting your neck. We wore our team jerseys and watched Hull make those deadly wrist shots. If St. Louis drubbed Chicago, we could expect a brawl sometime in the third period with at least half a dozen penalties. Every time the Blues scored, a bell would toll the number of St. Louis goals so far, and the crowd would then count off their own toll: "One!" "Two!" "Three!" "Four!"

Fights almost broke out in the stands among punks who'd chugged five cups of Bud. My father never drank beer at the game, and we both passed on soda a lot of times given the outrageous cost of concessions. I bet we could've sneaked in half a case of Dr. Pepper under our jerseys and worked out some sort of a tube system to get it into our mouths. One night Dad and I drove all the way to the game before he discovered one of our tickets was actually for a future game in the set. He graciously let me go in alone, missing the first period while he raced back to Fenton -- some 20 miles down the road -- to fetch the right stub. Dad made it back before the halfway point. I can't remember how much money Dad shelled out for all those tickets or whether they came as a work perk, but I loved each and every game, finally finding a sport I could enjoy like a normal kid.

In 1994, I landed my first TV job and moved to Texas, far away from any trace of professional hockey. A business group paid to renovate the Kiel Auditorium into a new home for the Blues, provided the old Barn didn't compete with it. So the St. Louis Arena sat empty for years until one man offered to buy it. That same business group then leaned on St. Louis officials to tear the place down for an office park, ignoring the large number of people who wanted it saved. Give St. Louis points for at least getting something built there, unlike our current bunch in Tucson.

I went to a University of Arizona Icecats game some time ago, without my father and without the excitement of the NHL. Fans occupied less than half the seats. College hockey has a few fights, but nothing to make referees escort half the team off the ice. I don't expect to see anything like those nights with Dad ever again. Anything worth remembering has that kind of value.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Save A Fly, Swat PETA Instead... Or A Reporter

If you haven't heard about the latest hubbub surrounding President Obama and that fly he swatted, good for you. If you have, then you probably weren't surprised by PETA's response, which suggested he should've used a humane bug catcher instead.

Once I rolled my eyes back into their proper position, I took a closer look at this tempest in a no-pest strip and found something even more annoying than that fly: according to PETA, reporters actually contacted the organization for a response after hearing about the fly-swat incident.

In the words of John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious!"

We all know a basic tenant of journalism is to present all sides, but asking PETA for a response to a fly swat is like asking Charles Manson what he thinks of parole boards. I don't know what's sillier: the question or the response.

PETA has done a lot to make me suspect their statement about being contacted by reporters, but if it's true, I can only guess these media folks thought they were trying to be fair and balanced.

I dunno, maybe flies are ripping them on the cable news channels.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Merry Patriot Strikes Again!

This weekend, for the first time ever, I attended the monthly contra dance at the Kenilworth School in Phoenix. The jewel of its rich history is a beautiful ballroom and wooden dance floor. So I thought, why not dress up in Colonial attire for this derivative form of Colonial dance?

Okay, the truth: any excuse for me to dress up in breeches, tricorn, weskit, tailcoat and jabot is a good one... and the ladies love it, especially when I bow to them.

Happily, a fellow dancer captured some of the festivities on video. Your humble servant should not be hard to spot. HUZZAH!

HUZZAH to Dave Foster for these videos!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Responding To Voight, Point By Point

Following up on a previous post where I put Jon Voight's speech to Republicans at a distance, a friend sent me a fuller version of the speech. It didn't do anything to change my mind.

First, the speech:

Voight says the GOP needs ideas and "positive inroads" to gain back power. But in this ten-minute clip, he has little positive to say. Let me go through his positions and allegations one at a time:

Democrats boast they are the winners and Republicans have nothing to say. The last time I looked, we still had a First Amendment, talk radio, and the Internet. We still have Republicans in Congress and in our state and local governments, especially here in FrancisPage's home state of Arizona. They're still talking, still demanding attention. Methinks this comment refers back to President Obama's remark that Democrats got to author the stimulus package because they won the election. Be honest: if John McCain had won the presidency, do you really think Republicans would have let the other side lay a finger on their recovery package?

Democrats fulfilled their mission to paint President Bush as a warmonger. Not any more than Republicans fulfilled their mission to paint President Obama as a shady socialist character who hangs around radicals.

The media was taken in by then-Senator Obama's "false, haloistic presence." I guess being a good speaker automatically makes one false and haloistic. I'll remember that the next time I prepare a talk for my Friday morning Bible study group. Here's another worn-out hate-the-liberal-media dig. Never mind the Jeremiah Wright association haunted Obama through much of the campaign, and Obama's remarks about how people "cling to guns or religion" stung him pretty hard. Boy, the liberal media really gave him a pass, didn't they?

Obama's questionable associations "didn't matter one iota" to the media or to those who voted for him. If those associations didn't matter to the media, then how did we hear about them? Or did we not hear about them through the media outlets Voight prefers, or not loudly enough? As I have said before, bias is in the eyes of the beholder. Many claims of media bias can be explained as the media not being biased in a particular direction. As for the voters, I'm sure they would like to apologize to you, Mr. Voight, for making a decision you didn't like.

Obama was portrayed to be a moderate, "but turned out to be wildly radical." Define "wildly radical." I have this sad feeling it means anybody to the left of you, Mr. Voight, including the center. I have yet to see President Obama overthrowing our institutions, killing off his enemies, and shutting down our churches. Yes, GM is now partially government owned. Yes, I've heard about the president's plans to regulate executive pay for those institutions taking government money. (Why is it unreasonable for the government to set ground rules for corporations borrowing our tax dollars?) I've seen wilder radicals than this.

All of the Democrats' strategies should be looked at to "see if we should mimic them in a positive LEGAL way." When I first heard that line, I played it back to make sure I heard it correctly. The disturbing hint is that Democrats broke the law in their campaign strategy for President Obama. How, Voight never explains. No evidence, no way. This is nothing more than a shameful, below the belt blow. What was he thinking? Was this a little late payback for all the allegations of voting fraud in the 2000 election of President Bush? Shame on all those people in the crowd who applauded this statement.

President Obama doesn't understand Israel, or "he would know that the Jewish people have tried time and time again to give the Palestinians land and bring a peaceful solution. But every attempt, every attempt, was returned with violence." and "Obama sat there with complete arrogance that he is now the new American power, able to dictate what he thinks is best for Israel." I wish I had the smarts to be able to give you an informed, measured assertion about what we should be doing in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Let me say this: Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr. haven't been able to solve the problem. We are not going to solve a problem that dates back thousands of years in a few decades. The solution is not letting Israel bomb the heck out of their enemies, which kills the innocent along with the guilty and prolongs the loops of violence. Something tells me simply giving Palestinians a homeland won't work, either. That homeland, by the way, must be in the Middle East, not on some rock in the middle of the Atlantic as I saw one political cartoonist jest.

More than anything else, both sides must truly desire peace, and I'm not convinced that mentality exists. I like the 1990 quote from former Secretary of State James Baker: "Everybody over there should know that the telephone number [of the White House] is 1-202-456-1414. When you're serious about peace, call us."

"Was I hearing things when he said that Iran might have the right to nuclear power?" No, Mr. Voight, but you went off half-cocked. Don't feel bad. I've done that many times before in the heat of battle. Seriously, the full quote from President Obama, as reported by the Washington Post is:
"Without going into specifics, what I do believe is that Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations. On the other hand, the international community has a very real interest in preventing a nuclear arms race in the region," Obama said.

The comments echo remarks Obama made in Prague last month in which he said his administration would "support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections" if Iran proves it is no longer a nuclear threat.
Notice the conditions set: Iran must prove it wants nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. I really don't think Obama is naive enough to believe that's Iran's true intention. But I would have made this contention more forcefully: "You can have nuclear power if and only if you prove to the world you are not out to destroy Israel or any other nation." That puts the condition up front and forces Iran to prove itself trustworthy -- which they won't. President Obama is not giving Iran an unconditional right to nuclear power as Voight phrases it. However, those conditions need to be tougher.

"Everything Obama has recommended has turned out to be disastrous." A little exaggeration goes a long way when you're trying to rally the base, but it doesn't work in my world. We're still waiting for results from the stimulus package, the economy is still struggling to recover, and the government is taking unprecedented steps to fix the auto industry, but "disastrous" doesn't fit. Our recession is no depression (I can hear conservatives saying "Not yet!"), and you have to remember President Bush was the one who started the stimulus ball rolling. In fact, as BipolarNation points out, President Obama's policies look a lot like George W. Bush's. So truthfully, you need more fingers if you want to point them in blame.

"This so-called stimulus package and his budgets will leave our grandchildren with great burdens and great debts." Finally Voight says something I agree with. Deficit spending simply has to stop, and we need a balanced-budget amendment. But to be sure, President Obama didn't invent deficit spending, and quite a few presidents have engaged in it on both sides of the aisle.

"It's no wonder that the Russian newspaper, Pravda, the former house-organ for the former Soviet communist regime, recently said, 'the American descent into Marxism is happening with breath-taking speed.'" I read that article, all of it. It's weird to see Republicans embracing a former communist newspaper for a talking point when it serves their purposes, as if somehow Pravda converted from a propaganda rag into the Russian equivalent of The Christian Science Monitor. Personally, I wouldn't trust any policy analysis coming out of Pravda with reality-ignoring paragraphs like these:
The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not just roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls, no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.
Prime Minister Putin, less then two months ago, warned Obama and UK's Blair, not to follow the path to Marxism, it only leads to disaster. Apparently, even though we suffered 70 years of this Western sponsored horror show, we know nothing, as foolish, drunken Russians, so let our "wise" Anglo-Saxon fools find out the folly of their own pride.
A propaganda rag is still a rag. Pravda (which is Russian for "truth," by the way), you haven't lost your touch.

"Obama really thinks he is a soft-spoken Julius Ceasar. He thinks he's going to conquer the world with his soft-spoken sweet talk and really thinks he's going to bring all the enemies of the world into a little playground where they'll swing each other back and forth." Another classic distortion right-wingers love to use: any foreign policy that involves communication and dialogue before a 100-megaton nuke is wimpy. Let me be clear: appeasement is costly -- remember Neville Chamberlain versus Hitler? But pardon me again, Mr. Voight, for wanting to be inspired by our leaders.

"Let's give thanks to [radio talk show hosts]." Yes, let's give thanks to them for keeping AM radio a viable business and providing entertainment and thought for millions. But let us remember what purpose they ultimately serve: generating audience and advertising dollars. They are not our elected officials. They do not have to run for office. They do not have to do their homework and understand the issues any further than it suits their goals. They cannot be voted off the air -- unless people stop listening to them, that is. They can say nearly anything they want, advocate anything they want, and not have to share the floor with hundreds of colleagues. They are kings of their own nations and the writers of their own constitutions, with sway over millions. They have all of the power without the inconvenience of having to operate within a democratic framework.

"We, and we alone, are the right frame of mind to free this nation from this 'Obama oppression.'" In your mind, how can I argue with that?

So much for "positive inroads." This is no platform to a revived Republican party, just a ten-minute gripefest. Nowhere in this speech do I see anything that would make me want to vote Republican, which pretty much sums up the problems the party is having right now. I have lived independent for some time now, and I don't regret it one bit.

I do not want to live life angry. GOD didn't make me that way. Listening to people on the radio or on the right grumble about how socialist and rotten our President is won't help me achieve that goal. I am not living life ignorant, just liberated, free to pursue facts and evaluate them on my own terms and not according to some partisan standard. The truth is not Republican or Democrat. I pray every day for GOD to grant me wisdom, and He has done so many times. I pray the leaders of this nation will let them be guided by GOD no matter what party they belong to. GOD isn't a Republican or a Democrat, either.

Friday, June 12, 2009

In Living Digital

Shortly after 9am today, KOLD News 13 shut down its ancient Harris analog transmitter on top of Tucson Mountain. So long to that heap of circuits that gave our engineering staff so much grief, the one with the nearly-impossible-to-find parts, the one we had to run at less than 10 percent power when water got into the facilities. Only by Providence did our chief engineer find a needed tube for it several years ago, a fix that failed to end all fixes.

In its place is a 300-watt digital transmitter acting as a fill-in device to spread our signal to those areas on Tucson's northwest side not covered by our main digital signal emitting from the antenna farm atop Mt. Bigalow. Two transmitters help, but we will still have black holes of coverage in several areas. So will every television station making the switch to digital on this date.

The government -- or the "gub'mint" if you want to say it that way -- is forcing this switch upon us because our old analog TV frequencies need to be used for new communications purposes to serve public safety agencies, wireless broadband Internet, handheld devices and other things we've heard about but not seen.

But wait -- don't we have all these things already? Our emergency workers already have communications devices. We have wireless broadband Internet and cell phones. Ah, but digital devices that use old UHF TV frequencies are supposed to be more reliable. I hope so. The quality of some cell phone calls has me pining for the days of those analog brick phones. They were ugly and heavy, but dadgumit, they put out some wattage, unlike some of these teeny-weeny phones that must have come from a box of Cracker Jacks. Digital TV has a lot of the same problems. Days of snowy pictures are over, but it means they either come in or they don't. People are finding they have to adjust their rabbit ears from one channel to the next, turning channel surfing into channel steering.

I wonder how hard it would have been to install these new services on frequencies around analog TV stations instead of forcing them off the air. Many low-power analog stations are staying that way under an exception to the government rules, so the nation's switch to digital really isn't complete after all. Some of them have relocated to other frequencies without going digital.

When television went to color in the 1960's, the government didn't put a deadline on the switch. Stations phased it in, and people bought color TV's as they could. When stereo came along in the 1980's, the feds also set no deadline. Digital TV is much more complex and expensive evolution than either of these two changes, all the more reason to ease people through the transmission and work around their viewing habits rather than force a gigantic change.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Then Again...

A security guard at the Holocaust Museum is gunned down. A white supremacist is charged.

An abortion doctor in Kansas is killed. A radical anti-abortion fanatic is charged.

And to think we laughed when Homeland Security came out with a memo saying right-wing extremist groups were growing... and growing dangerous.

Please notice that word "extremist," too, before throwing a temper tantrum about the government picking on conservatives.

Refreshing My Memory

If I ever need a reminder on why I left the Republican party, why I don't listen to talk radio, or why I call myself an independent, I'll just play this clip from Jon Voight again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Christianity Is Not A Social Club

Elizabeth shares powerful insight into the Pharisaical nature of some Christians when they come in contact with sinners, or simply people they don't consider Godly enough. Too often, they have an unwillingness to forgive or even consider a person is trying to repent or live right for GOD.
Allow me to get personal for a minute. I am a divorced, single mother. Yes, I know divorce is a sin. And believe me, that is certainly by far NOT the only sin I am guilty of. And I am also aware that I am not the ONLY one who has ever sinned. We all have.

And yet, there have been times when I have come to church, that I have felt the heavy stares of judgment. More often than not, I have felt uncomfortable, like I don't fit in. I can't count the number of times where I have walked in alone, and walked out alone after service was over, and not one person said anything to me. Am I not supposed to be there? Am I wearing the wrong clothes? Or maybe it's because I didn't bring my Bible with me? Or maybe because I do not have a husband to accompany me... was I supposed to have one of those? I don't know if it's all in my head. It could be. But the point is, I still FEEL that way.
Now as Christians, I ask you, how are we supposed to be "fishers of men" as Jesus put it, when we turn the net into a trap?

I go to Tucson Community Church, what many people would consider a non-traditional church. It's known as "The Cool Church," and we have fun while praising GOD. Our bands rock hard, and our pastors avoid "churchy" language in our teachings. But this is not "church lite." The philosophy of ministry stresses GOD's Word, getting right with GOD, and living right for GOD. How can we do this? 1 Corinthians 9:22:
"I become all things to all people that by all means I might save some."
GOD encourages us to spread His Word in all sorts of ways, to all people. Unfortunately, many people who have grown up in traditional churches think it's an absolute sin to worship GOD in any contemporary way.

A few months ago, I accepted an invitation to attend church in the Phoenix area with some friends of mine. They are a beautiful and Godly family who live right for GOD every day. They attend a traditional conservative Baptist church, and while I enjoyed the service, I also felt a bit out of place. I took along my NIV Bible, and I almost started reading from it until one of my friends whispered to me, "That's not going to match!" This church was using the King James Version, a beautiful translation, but one I find hard to understand.

We talked about it later over lunch, and one member of the family told me, "Well, the King James Version has been around for hundreds of years. We don't know how long the NIV version will be around."

Maybe I was taking it too hard, but I felt sad, as if this person was hinting I couldn't trust the Bible I held in my hand. To be sure, the NIV translation has problems for people in my own church. My pastor takes issue with the number of times it uses the word "sovereign" for GOD, implying that GOD is completely in charge of everything that happens in the world, when 1 John 5:19 tells us, "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." However, we don't cast a hairy eyeball at those who read the NIV, especially if they understand the truth about good and evil in the world.

But that's small stuff. This family is still friends with me and vice versa. I know they would never attend my church, and that's fine with me, and with GOD. I love them as Brothers and Sisters in Christ all the same. I grew up in a traditional church, after all.

However, some of us know Pharisees, those people who think they have a lock on the right way to worship and live for GOD through rules of their own making not backed up by the Bible. Anybody else is automatically a sinner. It's the religious equivalent of that infamous line from Bravo's Real Housewives of New York City: "You're down here and I'm up here." (I don't watch that show, and hearing that on a Nightline profile gave me another reason to avoid it.)

Jesus warned us about these kinds of people in Matthew 23:5-11 (NIV):
"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant.
So Jesus gives us direction: don't compare yourself to Pharisees, who are looking to put themselves above others and show off. Compare yourself to GOD's Word and humble yourself.

Christianity is not a battering ram. It is not an exclusive organization by which we can shut people out. GOD's gift of Salvation is for everyone who accepts Christ and follows Him. Shame on those Christians who lay guilt trips on repentant sinners or shun those who don't measure up to man-made non-Biblical standards of holiness. We already have too many stereotypes of "Bible-thumpers," ones we helped create.

Global Realities

The Boston Newspaper Guild just narrowly voted to reject a contract that would have cut wages at the The Boston Globe by 8 percent, implemented furloughs and cut numerous other benefits. Now the the New York Times Company says it will go ahead with the alternative: a 23 percent wage cut... or closing the Globe entirely. What is the union going to do about it? Strike? Hurt themselves even more?

This is not some gun-to-the-head threat from an evil monolithic media giant. It's the reality of the newspaper business, but the union refuses to see the hard reality, as the L.A. Times reports:
It (the rejected contract) also would have eliminated lifetime job guarantees given to 190 Guild workers, mostly in exchange for concessions made in 1994, shortly after the publisher of the New York Times bought the Globe for $1.1 billion.
If you are asking, no, demanding lifetime job guarantees in the journalism business, I'd like to know what planet you're reporting on. I know a lot of people who would love to make that demand and hold an employer to it, namely a lot of veteran broadcast journalists who have been sacked in the rotten economy.

Concessions stink. But doing the math, I'd rather take that 8 percent wage cut and the other benefit cuts rather than that 23 percent hit and the possibility of unemployment. The unions with America's automakers are now learning all those demands for job security and pension benefits came back to bite them. True, both GM and the Globe have failed to adapt to changes in the business, but rather than be a part of the solution, the unions are adding to the problem by failing to accept all of the hard reality.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Coverage You Can Spray On

All hail The University of Missouri School of Journalism -- where young, enthusiastic TV reporters learn the craft by reporting for a full-power, high-definition, NBC station using digital cameras and editors. KOMU-TV has come a long way from my days there, where I lugged around a heavy 3/4" tape deck attached to a bulky CCD camera with a "sun gun" light on top.

Occasionally, a "standup" got a little hinky. But I never had to deal with anything like this:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Who Killed GM?

We played a nice little parlor game around the producer workstation this afternoon bemoaning the roots of General Motors' bankruptcy. As with many things, you can point the finger of blame in several directions. But we could all agree GM grew too big and bloated and beholden, like one of its much-hated Hummers.

One argument is that GM kept churning out gas guzzlers when people wanted fuel efficiency. I disagree, and so does legendary Tucson car dealer Jim Click, who says the automakers build what people are buying. We wouldn't see all those SUV's on the road if people didn't demand them. Families need the space for their kids and stuff. People wanted to feel safe in a car that could stand up to that side-impact crash.

"What about the stationwagon?" you may ask.

Fair question. The car companies made them, and people bought them... until Chrysler rolled out the minivan. People liberated themselves from verve-killing gunboat vehicles that took up too much space in the garage and advertised to the neighborhood you were the prototypical happy family. Today's statiowagon loses the wood-panel sides and banana-shaped tail lights, but the stigma's still there.

So we can't fault GM for following the basic supply and demand principle. But we can, a colleague argues, fault them for dropping the ball on greener cars when gas prices shot up. She has a point there: GM forced its own EV-1, as documented in the film Who Killed The Electric Car?, off the road. Yet even the film concludes a perfect storm of consumer apathy, oil company lobbying, and government flip-flopping combined with GM's lame marketing to wreck the EV-1. GM still makes hybrids, but it's gonna cost ya.

So we move down the lineup to the next suspect: the unions. I remember when I lived in Fenton, Missouri, home to a gigantic minivan plant and also to a neighbor who worked for the local auto auction. He would walk around the cul-de-sac with his dog's leash in one hand and a beer in the other, picking up gossip like cigarette butts. Ask him what he thought about a UAW strike and you'd hear him grumble about how the Japanese would sing tribute songs to their company while the larded union guys would occupy mass for an insane amount of money.

Indeed, GM has paid through the grille for workers' generous health care and pensions -- $103 billion over the past 15 years -- adding thousands of dollars to the sticker price on that soon-to-be-defunct Pontiac. People went to the Mazda dealer down the street. If the union didn't like what it was getting, it went on strike. GM went into the hole, realizing it couldn't fight back. The UAW concessions now come about a decade too late.

So GM built the wrong kind of cars for too much for too long, thinking it was too big to fail or the next hit minivan was right around the corner. It threw people a leaf on fuel-effiency. It failed to inject its unions with a dose of hard reality about the cost of living versus the cost of operating. Too many options came standard, and now we're stuck with this lemon that won't get fixed with a tune-up.

I own a Kia Rio, which has served me well ever since I bought it in 2001, trading in a 1987 Chevy Celebrity. The old car had a tank of an engine but a disintegrating interior. I drove off in a new car for the price of a used -- and with a ten-year warranty. The odometer is up to 125,000 miles and counting, the upholstery is holding together, and it's paid for. I'm driving it until the wheels come off. When that happens, I'll see what GM or any automaker can sell me. Be prepared for some haggling.

Reel To Reel: Up

Will this impress Ed Asner? Well, he did the movie, didn't he?

Going Rate: Worth a full price admission for everybody -- kids, adults, cranky seniors -- and 3D is a nice extra, but not an absolute
Starring: (Voices of) Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer
Rated: PG
Red Flags: Nothing really, but some sequences may be too scary for very young children

What can I really say about this film, except that Pixar has done it again, like they've always done? If Pixar were to churn out a genuine turkey, which is possible yet highly unlikely for this semi-independent studio, then I would have something fascinating to write about. But Pixar doesn't make turkeys. It makes refined and imaginative movies with an emotional connection. I wouldn't call Pixar the Merchant Ivory Productions of animated cinema, but right now, they're more Disney than the Disney that distributes their pictures.

Up is the life story of Carl Fredricksen (Asner), a balloon salesman who wants to go to South America, fulfilling the wish he and his late wife Ellie shared since they met as children. Back then they were enthralled with legendary explorer Charles Muntz (Plummer) and his gigantic zeppelin (before anybody heard of Led). Ellie and Carl get married and their years roll by in a silent and yet powerful montage that is a paragon example of wordless storytelling. This is the part where you'll be glad you forked over the extra $2 for the 3-D glasses so nobody can tell if your eyes are watering or not.

With Ellie gone, Carl shrivels into that prototypical old coot we wouldn't care about unless we'd seen his life flashed before us just a few minutes earlier. His house sits on land developers want for a new high-rise or Starbucks or something, but neither Carl nor his home are going anywhere -- until he has one tantrum too many. Authorities want Carl to leave for a politely-named retirement community. Instead, he blows up a whole bunch of balloons, tethers them to the fireplace, and turns his house into a flying airship bound for the place of his dreams. The trip would go a lot smoother if he didn't have Russell, a pudgy scout-like Wilderness Explorer (Jordan Nagai) trying to help him out to earn one last merit badge. They get to the general area where they're going, but they run into a lot of trouble and have to lug the flying house around like a parade balloon.

Maneuvering through the jungle, they run into the Dug the dog, a wily Golden Retriever who's outfitted with a special translation collar allowing him to speak to people in English beyond "roof," "rough," and "Ralph." Dug is controlled, more or less, by Muntz, who's gone back to South America to find a species of bird people have accused him of fabricating. Muntz has outfitted an entire legion of pseudo-talking dogs who will obey his orders -- except when a squirrel is nearby. Otherwise, they face the "cone of shame," a device similar to the one the vet uses to keep your dog from licking his sutures or private parts after surgery.

Given the same storyline, other studios might have turned this into a hyperactive roadrunner cartoon with a few forgettable cute songs. Pixar's team knows better, and they opt to focus on the emotional needs of Carl, Russell, Dug, and Muntz. They are all people after different goals but with an unceasing drive to reach them in spite of the wounds they've suffered along the way. The trailer for this film sold it short, but that's no surprise. Pixar consistently surpasses our expectations, even after more than a decade of moviemaking. Up's subject matter may be too heavy for very young children to wrap their tiny fingers around. That's all right. It will be waiting for them years from now, when they're ready, and just as colorful.