Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reel To Reel: The Book Of Eli

"Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." -- Proverbs 4:27

Going Rate: Worth matinee price, although some Christians may say it's worth more
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman
Rated: R
Red Flags: Several graphic fights, language, references to cannibalism

When I saw the trailer for The Book Of Eli, I feared this film would attempt to turn Denzel Washington into Samuel L. Jackson. I was relieved to see it didn't. It stays true to Washington's cinematic reputation for playing charismatic men. More than that, however, it reminded me of why we all need GOD in our lives... even amid its violence and rough language.

The film takes place in what's left of America after a catastrophic war. Several decades since the last bombs have fallen, humans are living in a continuous wasteland of shantytowns and wreckage. They barely trust each other as they barter for food, water, or whatever they need using anything they can scrounge. Only in post-apocalyptic times is a KFC towelette worth more than gold. Lawmen don't exist; hijackers and thieves run loose. Illiterate, uneducated children grow into illiterate adults. People have either rejected or forgotten about GOD, except for the title character.

Eli (Washington) is a tough recluse. He can take out a gang of thugs with brutal honesty and an air of invincibility as he wanders down the road with a pack on his back. His focus on moving down the road precludes him from latching on to anyone, sometimes to the detriment of others. Early in the picture, Eli avoids stopping a crime in progress because of his need to "stay on the path."

It becomes obvious to us as the film unfolds that he is on a mission, guided by a book he regularly reads but keeps hidden from others. I bet you can guess what it is. In a lawless society that doesn't know about GOD, Eli's book is highly sought by those like thug boss Carnegie (Oldman) who see it as the key to controlling the masses.

I couldn't watch The Book Of Eli without constantly testing the title character's principles against GOD's Word. It has a lot to say about "running the race" well (1 Cor. 9:24, 2 Tim. 4:7), keeping faith, and putting priorities in life on the right kinds of things. A lot of you will not call this a Christian film, which is understandable given its rampant carnage and immorality. True, this film presents scripture in a context similar to Samuel Jackson's bellowing of Ezekiel in Pulp Fiction: something that just sounds cool in the midst of people getting blown up or shot. The ending seems implausible, but not too much so given the context.

I think I enjoyed The Book Of Eli because it made me think about how blessed we all are. The film shows us a world without GOD, where people don't know how to pray, how to act, or how to love. It also made ponder the consequences of the misuse of GOD's Word. It's only a movie, and we know GOD is bigger than any big-budget film. Still, if the world turns away from GOD... well, I don't want to think about that.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good Church-Going People

A lot of people see your faith directly in proportion to how much you go to church, and according to ABC News, a lot of people will likely question President Obama's faith -- again -- based on how few times he's gone over the past year.

The article points to a practical explanation:
Keeping the faith in quiet moments of worship may be the best Obama can do given the realities of the presidency that make it nearly impossible to join a church without inflicting a heavy burden on taxpayers, fellow churchgoers and his own spiritual life, sources say.

Security concerns mean costly and complicated measures to ensure the president's safety on church outings, including screening every member of the congregation for weapons and sweeping the church building and areas around it for threats.

Incessant media attention is also distracting for any president trying to commune with God, exposing what is traditionally a private practice to public scrutiny, [White House spiritual adviser Rev. Jim] Wallis said.
But he's getting serviced:
President Obama also enjoys worshipping "fairly regularly" at the Evergreen Chapel at Camp David, where the Rev. Carey Cash -– a U.S. Navy chaplain and great-nephew of singer Johnny Cash -- ministers, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has said.

"We've been attending church, there's a little chapel up in Camp David when we go up there," Obama told ABC News' "Nightline" in July. "There's a wonderful young pastor up there, a chaplain, who does just wonderful work. And the Camp David families attend."

Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, also frequented the chapel at Camp David and ultimately chose not to formally join a church in Washington during his eight years in the White House.
The article goes on to point out that many presidents haven't formally joined a D.C. area church. Still, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton all frequently attended.

Enough of the rumors that our president is really a Muslim, etc., etc., etc. I've heard 'em all. Let's look at what the Bible tells us.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) says:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of GOD's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to GOD—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what GOD's will is—HIS good, pleasing and perfect will.
Notice that Paul doesn't say worship is going to church every Sunday; it's honoring GOD with our lives. It's letting GOD shape how we live so we confirm to HIS will.

Check out 1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV):
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
       as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
       To obey is better than sacrifice,
       and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Samuel is asking us to think about what GOD wants more: Going through ritual sacrifices to honor HIM or doing what HE says?

One more for you -- Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NIV):
And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your GOD ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all HIS ways, to love HIM, to serve the LORD your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
You see anything about church in there? Again, GOD wants us obedient.

Now look at what JESUS says in Matthew 6:5 (NIV):
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men."
In the broadcast journalism world, a camera is nearly constantly on the President every time he's out in public, including church. Given what people have said about the president's feel-good rhetoric, he may not want people to think he's going to church for good PR.

Why go to church then? Because we want to thank GOD for all HE's done for us, be with other Believers, and learn GOD's Word from people who've studied it enough to teach it well. GOD, however, leaves a lot open for us. Also consider this: a lot of people go to church on Sunday morning and then forget about GOD the rest of the week. I used to be one of them.

On the night I started getting right with GOD among friends while standing outside an In-N-Out Burger some three years ago, I felt embarrassed to admit I wasn't going to church. At that time, I went to my Mom and Dad's church in California, but I hadn't found a church in Tucson. I had thought about going to a Presbyterian church here, but never did it. I wasn't getting much out of traditional church. It wasn't speaking to my life, and it wasn't addressing the questions I had about GOD.

I was reluctant to admit this to my friends because I felt they would condemn me, say I was going to Hell. I was afraid they would cut me off. Instead, GOD Bless Them, they wanted to help me and they wanted me to pray with them. That's the way it should be. Soon I was going to church again, at Tucson Community Church, which takes a fun and practical approach to Sunday services.

ABC News reports our president gets spiritual messages every day on his Blackberry. A lot of you get devotionals in your email. Or you go to Christian websites or blogs. Maybe you play in Christian sports leagues, or perform in Christian theater or dance groups... or maybe Christian history groups. These things can help you connect with GOD. But they still aren't church.

I believe a lot of people who don't go to church regularly aren't going to the right kind of church. Not everybody plugs into the ceremony and robes and stained-glass windows of traditional church, even if the pastors of those churches are accurately handling GOD's Word. Maybe you're in a denomination that's thrown up too many rules that come from man, not the Bible. Perhaps your church has gotten too mushy with GOD's principles and left you without clear guidelines. Possibly those old hymns don't speak to you.

Through the apostle Paul, GOD tells us that there isn't one correct way to do church. 1 Corinthians 9:22 says: "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." Don't feel you're not going to a "real" church if it has contemporary music or pastors who teach from translations other than the Revised Standard or King James Bible. Tell me in the Bible where it says Christian rock music is somehow displeasing to GOD. And to my Catholic friends, I disagree with you in love over the need to confess sins to a priest -- where does the Bible tell us to do that?

So President Obama doesn't go to church regularly. A lot of us don't either. But the President hasn't cut GOD out of his life, and he's going where he can do it practically and privately, not wanting to make a holy spectacle of himself. We have the opportunity to do the same thing. But it's how we live that matters most. Whether the President is living what he learns in church is another debate.

Tucson Friends: Is regular church just not cutting it for you? I highly encourage you to try The Cool Church. Our mission is to reach the unchurched, the unconvinced, and the unchallenged and help them live right for GOD. And we have lots of fun doing it! Even if you don't live here, try watching a few of Pastor Dave's teaching shorts on the website. They're great!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Her Majesty's Own

(or, They Call Me “Earl”)

GOD Save The Queen! Sir Christopher, Earl of Surrey Suffolk, recounts for his journal the merrymaking of Her Majesty's Ball, a regal presentation of We Make History.

Pictorial representations by Sir M. Cynecki
(Click any for a larger view!)

22 January, The Year Of Our LORD 1710

My heart simmers with expectations upon the meeting with my seamstress, just now completing the task of sewing my garments for tomorrow's assembly. I must mention that the rendezvous to deliver the attire takes place in an awkward locale, in the lot of a merchant the locals refer to as the “Valero.” Nervously I sit in my carriage, with not even a footman to watch for trouble.

She arrives unaccompanied but with the goods. The glistening floral-patterned golden brown satin coat with matching breeches shine through the night like a candle, as does the glistening satiny weskit. She has gone well beyond my initial selection of fabric and large brown buttons to add flourishes of trim in all the right places, overlooking no important mark of refinement while sparing any hint of foppishness.

The labour has taken many months, more hobby than task, and she has persevered through much, including the difficulties of working with the pattern of my hand-picked materials: “You picked a fabric I could not reverse!”

Yet now she is giddy with delight. “I know you will call me if you have any problems!” No, My Dear Lady, no problems whatsoever.

23 January, The Year Of Our LORD 1710

“The Earl of Surrey,” I present myself, bowing to His Lordship, Secretary To Her Majesty.

“Earl Of Surrey,” he wonders.

Does Surrey even have an Earl, or is there mischief afoot? We have long known of spies trying to infiltrate Her Majesty's Realm, looking for signs of weakness. Ah, but she is stronger than that! A mere glance at her beautiful countenance should suffice, radiant in her golden orange gown, warm amongst the cold of winter. Her secretary is the fitting match in his regalia of deep red and gold with the long flowing wig of dark brown locks.

Maybe Surrey does not need an Earl. Yea, it never had one. Perhaps that Earl or that impostor who calls himself Earl is in flight to escape his debts and evade the bailiffs. Surely I cannot be that Earl. Yet, maybe Suffolk is in want of an Earl? Suppose the previous Earl has vanished, disappeared, perhaps lost his life at sea en route to the New World? Or maybe he too is on the lam? In either event, a vacancy is left. So by His Lordship's word, acting on authority of Her Majesty, he subtly declares me the Earl of Suffolk, and all is made right.

I am admiring the work of the Royal Court Artist when I notice Madame. Her head pokes through the doorway to the ballroom, crowned with a black cocked hat. Then I notice the black veil hanging from it, and then, the long black gown.

“Is your friend in mourning?” a lady discreetly asks.

“No,” I reassure. “She is simply on the edge of fashion. And she is living up to her namesake: Madame Noire, Special Emissary of Sun City. But perhaps she is in mourning, in a sense, wistful for a time long gone.”

It is that time we are re-creating, a time where there were no Republicans or Democrats, nay, nor Whigs or Tories. All were loyalists. “GOD save the King! GOD save the Queen! Huzzah!”

“Huzzah!” I cry, finally eliciting the outburst of enthusiasm our host is seeking, one deferred out of respect to the one holding the privilege of speaking.

I know I should save some of my energies for later. My feet, however, cannot resist skipping as I lead Madame around the floor to the lead of our hosts in the grand procession, one hand joined high with hers, the other buckled tastefully to my side.

The assembly is small and yet enthusiastic. Some dress in simple elegance. Some let their gowns flow and flourish. Some prefer trousers to breeches. But one thing unifies the ladies in fashion; that is the presence of tiaras, adorning many a fair head. So many are princesses in Her Majesty's realm.

Christmas may be many days long past, but not in our hearts, as we dance to the tune “Noel.” It demands much of us. The gentlemen leave their partners, skipping around in a circle in front of the ladies to fall back into place beside a new, temporary partner. Then the ladies do the same, skipping to find their original partners, bowing and curtsying to each other at the end. I have great opportunity to see how well Her Majesty carries herself as I have the fortune to slip into place beside her many times. I bow to her as low and proper as my frame will permit. She is unhindered by her royal regalia. She continues her reign as the Dancing Queen!

We continue on to the set dances, lining up in long rows of ladies and gentlemen. Our dancing mistress decides we should take a walk in “Knowle Park.” Or perchance, a run. A circle precedes a change of corners before another circle and another change of corners. One couple leads through the other, and then the couples weave around each other in a pousette. All of this is taking place quite quickly, to the confusion of some of the Queen's loyal subjects, who stand bewildered in the middle of the set before attempting another go at the dance. My partner and I do some teaching between steps. Our fingers point to where others should move, nearly forgetting to move ourselves. Nay, we hardly have time to breathe, it seems.

Does this discourage Her Majesty's guests? Nay! Nay! So they dance heartily to her in tribute: “The Queen's Jig.” Again the dancers spend many moves changing places, but there is neither a quickening pace nor a complicated weave. One young lady is still a bit confused, but she does her best to keep pace and time, even if she does emit a hint of a pout.

“GOD Save The Queen!” I shout to the Heavens.

GOD save her attendants, as well. Twelve beautiful ladies – beautiful both in countenance and in manner – are chosen for special honour this evening. So many things of the world are trying to define them, Her Majesty's Secretary reminds us, with so many distractions and influences from all around. Rather, they desire to let themselves be defined by a higher standard, and for that we are grateful. As loyal subjects of Her Majesty, they shall be watched over and guided, protected and loved.

They proceed before us, one at a time, as their names are called, receiving a rose from our host as a symbol of the praise and the hope we all have for them. But then, our host produces one more flower, reserved for Her Majesty, as her most humble and devoted servant. The warmth of the moment penetrates the entire ballroom and I feel it deep within me.

It lingers within us as we dance “In The Fields of Frost and Snow.” It is customary for me, although many a dancing master would disapprove, to hold a free hand high when turning a lady or turning in a set with hands across. My chin is also slightly elevated to match a stately expression on my face, although as I reflect upon it later, I realize I right ought to smile more and let more of my light shine through.

It certainly does shine through when we dance “The Doubtful Shepherd,” the one dance where teasing and tousling and tickling of each other's powdered wigs and locks is highly encouraged on both the part of the lords and ladies as we prance around one another. Her Majesty's young subjects develop a keen affection for it.

“Are you paying tribute to Queen Victoria?” a guest asks Madame.

“No,” she replies, but she adds that she is flattered by the comparison.

The expectation is that a proper gentleman shall dance as much as possible with as many ladies as possible, but I cannot neglect the lady whom I have invited. This is her first time dancing in Her Majesty's court, and I am resolved to make the experience as beautiful as possible for her. Every step I take is refined and reflective of the Grace of THE LORD. I honour her well beyond a bow.

“You glide across the floor,” she notices with a smile.

Others notice. “They know what they're doing,” says one gentleman to his partner as he watches us turn and cast around them during a weaving part of one dance.

She will also share in my joy as I dance my favourite number with her: “Come, Let Us Be Merry.” The dance gives us many opportunities to bow and curtsy to each other and take many stately steps.

For birthdays, however, we cast aside stateliness and dance a circular jig around those who are celebrating another year of life. Her Majesty's Secretary needs not do much convincing for me to jump right in – “I knew I could count on the Earl of Suffolk!”

“For they're such jolly good fellows,
For they're such jolly good fellows,
For they're such jolly good fellows,
Which nobody can deny!”

We dance the “The Indian Queen,” in tribute to Pocahontas, and then “Haste To The Wedding,” in tribute to those loyal subjects of Her Majesty's Realm who shall be joined in matrimony soon. Then, all too soon, as is always the case when we are lost in merrymaking, it comes time for the final waltz.

Such a dance could raise a scandal! All those gentlemen and ladies dancing so closely together! Therefore, Madame and I substitute a minuet, yea, improvised, but comprised of and inspired by the elegant and varied movements inspired from the Royal Court Dances hundreds of years before. She knows not what steps I shall take next, but I can show her subtly through small gestures of my hands and a whispered word or two.

“GOD Save The Queen!” we shout in tribute as our host bids us farewell. “HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!”

Traveling in my carriage after the festivities, another carriage rolls up beside me. The inhabitants, bright and cheery from a night of revelry and possibly fermented beverages notice my outfit, especially my cocked hat. They roll down their windows, laughing and pointing, and quickly mistaking me for a pirate.

“Yarrr! Where ye be goin'?” one yelled.

“I am headed to the local inn, for a feast!”

“The inn?”

“The In-N-Out!”

See more images and memories from the merry group here.

NEXT: The General, The Dancer, His Soldiers, And Our Freedom

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Big Finish

My heart lifts just thinking about it! Her Majesty's Ball is just one day away! While I admit my minuet is a bit pedestrian and improvisational, it does not hinder me in the slightest as long as the ladies approve.

And our friends in the ballroom are certainly not hindered, after a musical interlude...

Now, let us all be merry one more time!

See you on the floor, Dearest Dancing Friends!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dancing In The Dark

A great choice is upon me now before Her Majesty's Ball, a decision which shall be scrutinized by my closest friends and curious acquaintances. An error in judgement shall draw snickers and comparisons to a certain society of overdressed Englishmen, but the reward of the proper disposition shall be quite measurable.

And so the matter lies before me: white or yellow stockings?

While I ponder about it, consider this: when your light shines through, it brightens everything in your presence like the faithful shepherds and shepherdesses here:

Eventually, one works up enough grace and courage to go it alone on the floor, as shown beautifully by Philippa Waite:

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just Imagine...

Dearest friends, I would be powdering my wig, if I had one. Her Majesty's Ball is less than a quarter of a fortnight away now. I had the recent opportunity to both teach and practice my footwork among some aspiring dancers, young and old, and your humble servant was quite impressed at how quickly they took to grace of the movements.

"Imagine a roomful of people dressed in period attire," I challenged them.

Perhaps they envisioned something like this...

And then, maybe this...

However, I told them, dancing in one's home among friends was almost certainly less formal and more lively, like these happy ones from Germany. Notice how they maneuver through this twisting caper without benefit of a caller, although I think I spot their dancing master walking alongside the set with a critical eye.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Few Minuets More

Your humble servant is filled with happiness at the mere mention of Her Majesty's Ball, especially since his seamstress has shown him his near-finished outfit for the occasion! I dare not reveal the work in progress, but I shall say it is tres elegant.

And thus we continue our week-long celebration of elegant dance in honour of the occasion, leading off with this blend of minuet and country dance:

And now, four merry dancers...

Let us increase that number to eight, with this 18th Century cotillion:

Of course, Dearest Readers, the beautiful fashions of the late 1600's and early-to-mid 1700's are a feast for the eyes. I do wonder how the ladies could dance so lightly in a corset and pannier.

But surely it wasn't as difficult as dancing in some of these outfits from the famous Carnival of Venice:

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Let's Get This Party Started!

Dearest Lords and Ladies of Her Majesty's Realm, the time for elegant yet lively capering is nearly upon us once again! Her Majesty's Ball is but less than a week away, and your humble servant is once again filled with excitement over another chance to practice his dearest diversion.

This week, I share with you several dances from a Baroque festival of dance, starting with a beautiful minuet -- something that would have been danced early in the evening at many a fancy ball. The music is by Handel.

And now, for something a bit more lively. "La Forlana" performed by Atlanta Baroque Dance:

Another, from Festa Cortese:

Such merriment is wonderful, especially after a hard day's night...

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Tweaked Off

I can't believe I actually listed to Rush Limbaugh in college, not after he used the devastating Haiti earthquake to take a irrelevant political shot.

First, here's what Limbaugh said in response to a caller who asked why he should have to go through the White House's website link to donate to Haitian relief efforts:

Here's the transcript:
RUSH: We're going to start in Raleigh, North Carolina. Justin you're first today. Great to have you with us.

CALLER: Mega Rush Baby dittos. My question is, why did Obama in the sound bite you played earlier, when he's talking about if you wanted to donate some money, you can go to --

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: -- to direct you how to do so. If I want to donate money to the Red Cross, why do I need to go to the page and --

RUSH: Exactly. Would you trust that the money is going to go to Haiti?


RUSH: Would you trust that your name is going to end up on a mailing list for the Obama people to start asking you for campaign donations for him and other causes.

CALLER: Absolutely.

RUSH: Absolutely right.

CALLER: That's the point.

RUSH: Besides, we've already donated to Haiti. It's called the US income tax.

CALLER: Rush, my mother was going to be on a missionary trip. She was going to leave at 4:30 this morning to go to Haiti with our church.

RUSH: That's another point, too. Churches --

CALLER: No government money, Rush.

RUSH: Exactly right. Look, there are people that do charitable work every day in Haiti. It's not as though -- like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, it's our fault. Reverend Wright, it's our fault, there's no excuse for such poverty when there's a nation as rich as we are so close. There are people that have been trying to save Haiti just as we're trying to save Africa. You just can't keep throwing money at it because the dictatorships there just take it all. They don't spread it around, and even if they did they're not creating a permanent system where people can provide for themselves. It's a simple matter of self-reliance. Nobody takes that approach down there because this has always been a country run by dictators and incompetent ones at that.
I can understand not wanting to go through the White House website to donate to the Red Cross. I can understand not wanting to end up on somebody's political mailing list. But then Rush jumps from that concern to this statement: "We've already donated to Haiti. It's called the US income tax."

The point, I think, is that some of our government money goes to efforts counteracting poverty and corrupt regimes like those found in Haiti. And yes, throwing money at a problem doesn't always solve it. But the White House isn't asking us to donate to the government; it's asking us to donate to the Red Cross and other relief organizations like Tucson's own World Care. The U.S. government is providing logistical support plus search and rescue teams, but they already have our tax dollars. In that sense, Rush is right. But the context stinks.

Now is not the time to bag on Haiti's corruption or our response to it. Tens of thousands of innocent people with no political faults, real or accused, are trapped or dying or already dead. They should be our focus now, not Haiti's rotten past.

But then again, we know Rush loves to "tweak the media," and he openly admits it. As he told a caller:
All right. Now, this is funny. This was our Media Tweak of the Day yesterday, April. You know, what we do here on this program is, purposely, play the media like violin, like a Stradivarius. And I love tweaking them. I love irritating them, and I love upsetting them and all you do is take words uttered by liberals and apply them to current events.
The caller, by the way, was upset after reading a Huffington Post article implying Rush told people not to donate to Haitian relief efforts, something which Rush never said. But yet he expected the media to jump on that remark, which it did. Rush explains his methodology to the caller:

And here's the transcript.

It's not enough that Rush is playing both sides here: saying he loves to tweak the media with quotes he knows will be taken out of context and then getting upset when it happens and people respond to it. He goes on to namecall after a caller has trouble seeing things from his perspective...
RUSH: Now, April, I must ask a serious question: Do you ever listen to my program or do you hear about it in places like the Huffington Post?

CALLER: Um... I... When I'm upstairs in the bedroom I'll have the radio on and I like to listen to some local stations. So, yes, I have heard your show.

RUSH: All right.

CALLER: And I've heard dozens and clips and quotes that you've said and most of the time I'm absolutely disgusted with you. I'll be perfectly honest with you.

RUSH: I see. Okay, now that we've established that you listen sometimes and you're absolutely disgusted. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard of the Democrat Party and President Obama politicizing a natural disaster?

CALLER: Have I ever heard of them politicizing...?

RUSH: Yeah, has that ever happened? Has Barack Obama and the Democrat Party ever politicized a natural disaster?

CALLER: Umm, well, this is the -- at least if you're speaking specifically about President Obama, this is the first natural disaster that we've had on, uh -- on his term. So...

RUSH: We had a natural disaster when he was Senator. It doesn't matter whether he was president or not. I said the Democrat Party and President Obama, as a Senator, certainly politicized Hurricane Katrina. You see, the difference, April, is that I know these people. I know who they are and I love to tweak them. I love to tweak the media. I predicted yesterday... How come there's no outrage, by the way, at Bill Clinton suggesting that Obama's nothing more than a slave when he was trying to get Ted Kennedy to endorse Hillary and he says (doing impression), "Come on! Come on, Ted. You know, a few years ago this guy would be fetching us our coffee." You're not outraged about that because the Huffington Post isn't outraged about it. They probably don't write about it but I talk about all of it.

CALLER: Actually... Uh, are you implying that the Huffington Post as the one and only resource that I watch (sic--read)? I even watch Fox News once in a while.

RUSH: No, no, no, no, no. I'm not implying that.


RUSH: What I'm illustrating here is that you're a blockhead. What I'm illustrating here is that you're a closed-minded bigot who is ill-informed. I am being patient and tolerant and I'm trying to explain this to you, and you're totally closed to it. I'm hitting you with piercing, penetrating logic, and it escapes you -- and it is irritating people like you that I revel in. I absolutely revel in it. I've got 19 sound bites here today, April, of media people going bat manure yesterday over what they think I said. They didn't hear me say it, either. They got it from the Huffington Post or they got it from Media Matters or they got it from someplace else. I did not say don't donate. I did say Obama will use this to help burnish his credentials, 'cause there's no question he will. I'll tell you something else I said, April: It took him three days to go out and talk about the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber. It took him less than 18 hours to get out there and start rallying people about this earthquake.

I'll tell you something else, April. I'm going to make prediction to you, and I'm gonna be right about this. Before the week is out we're going to have to be stories in the Huffington Post and other places that you read pointing out how fast Obama moved into action versus Bush during Hurricane Katrina. To accuse me of politicizing everything is to be ignorant about what I do on this program. I simply react to the left. They're the ones that politicize virtually everything that's happening from health care to terrorism, and I love illustrating absurdity by being absurd. And if you had listened to this program for a modicum of time you would know it. But instead you're a blockhead. You're mind is totally closed. You have tampons in your ears. Nothing is getting through other than the biased crap that you read. So I've had enjoyment here talking to you and illustrating that it's impossible to deal in the truth with you. I appreciate your calling and I appreciate your holding on. I grew up not far from Paducah. If I'd known you were there, I might have stayed.
So if you don't agree with Rush's approach to tweaking the media, if you aren't in the know like he is, if you don't "get" his jokes or references, you're a blockhead who either can't handle the truth or doesn't want to.

And really, Rush, is there a need to tell a lady who's asking a fair question about what she's read that she has tampons in her ears?

Practice your honors!

Rush has long established that you need to listen to his show for an extended period of time to understand the context of what he says. But how much context should be expected of us? And does it even matter if Rush enjoys throwing out more bait for the media to snap at? Rush isn't just playing the media like a violin; he's playing all of us. The controversy adds to his listener base, thus giving more ears to his advertisers, thus creating more value for his program and the stations that carry it.

The disaster in Haiti should be above politics. If the Obama administration bungles its role in the relief efforts, we'll deal with that then. But for now, politics isn't the issue. I'm praying for the victims and those helping them.

(Be a part of the solution! My station, KOLD News 13, has put together this page for information on how people in Tucson can help the relief effort.)

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's Just A Movie, Isn't It?

I cannot understand all the conservative trashing of James Cameron's Avatar, a movie which is breaking box-office records, but is excoriated by the right for what they call a pro-environment, anti-military, anti-American message.

Really? Let's think this through.

The Na'vi inhibit Pandora, a lush, beautiful planet filled with creatures who have this unique networking ability. Here comes a company looking to mine a precious stone called "unobtanium," used for a purpose never explained to us. In the course of their work, the miners must force the Na'vi from their home tree. The obvious parallel to our history is the settlers versus Native Americans in our New World and frontier days. I won't argue with our history: many nations forced Native Americans off their land as America grew. Native Americans, however, also did their share of conquering other tribes. Who did the Na'vi conquer? We're not sure, but we know other tribes inhibit the planet. And if they are a truly peaceful people, they would not have or need trained warriors, as the film shows us.

We also know early Americans tried diplomacy, not just conquest. The movie indicates the scientists of Pandora try it, too, without much success. Oh, how they try, going so far as to create biologically-engineered clones of the Na'vi to aid in that mission. It would've been a lot easier to just walk around Pandora with oxygen masks and air tanks. Not everybody's on board with this mission, which is a major point of tension among the movie's characters. And in a good movie, you want tension.

The marine commanding the security forces, Colonel Miles Quaritch, is a real posterior orifice. So is Parker Selfridge, the head of the company mining the planet. They want the unobtanium and don't care what they tear up or uproot to get it. Here's where conservatives really get worked up, claiming the film bashes the military and corporations. But who's giving the orders? One man: Col. Quaritch. The men and women are carrying those orders out, regardless of their personal opinions, because that's what trained personnel do. Theirs is not to question why; theirs is but to do and die. How is the film anti-military for portraying servicepeople following orders? And let us remember, they're working for Selfridge, who is ultimately calling the shots on the planet.

Selfridge, as his name implies, is self-ish. So, he's selfish. Good. We're not supposed to like the guy. Filmmakers love manipulating our emotions, which is part of the reason we enjoy movies. We like losing ourselves in an alternate reality. We need heroes and villains, good guys and bad guys. But there's too many corporate bad guys in the movies, conservatives complain. So what do you want Hollywood to do? Establish a quota system for villains? Implement a new version of the Hayes Code? Sounds like more regulation to me. It doesn't sound very Constitutional, either.

Most people who are seeing Avatar are seeing it for what it is: a movie. They are not seeing it as a propaganda film. They don't go in with that notion, and they don't come out with it. Pandora, the Na'vi, the avatars, the military security forces, they're all on the screen and in our heads, and that is where they'll stay.
Is Avatar a left-wing parable? Only if you want it to be. People found political allegory in The Wizard Of Oz. Everybody else just saw a film.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Yankee, Doodle, But No Dandy

I watched a DVD of Beau Brummell: This Charming Man tonight, thinking I would merely continue my historical education and enlighten myself on a figure I have neglected to study. I found enlightenment, all right, but not in the way I expected.

Brummell is the reason we're wearing tailored dark suits and slacks today with a tie. He liberated men from knee breeches, powdered wigs and frilly lace adornments. He told us to bathe for crying out loud, and showed us less was more in men's fashion, although it is said he took five hours to dress, and his cravat displayed anything but simplicity.

However, it wasn't the look that drew my attention. The film shows -- and I do realize it is a dramatization based on fact, not fact itself -- a man of all style and little substance, character, moral fiber or regard for others beyond how he might use them to advance his positions. Brummell is a gambler, a poser and a debtor. One scene shows him performing a waltz (a scandalous dance in the early 19th Century because it brought ladies' and gentlemen's bodies close together and let them hold each other in places considered taboo) with a married woman in front of her husband with no regard for his feelings. He eludes accountability and responsibility in equal measure. And somehow, through all this, people still admire him.

Brummell is the archetype of dandyism, which emphasizes the look and feel of something refined but only skin-deep. In Texas, they have a saying for that: "All hat, no cowboy." At least one person has suggested I might look good as a dandy or a Beau Brummell type. At first, I was curious. Now I cringe.

What I love about historical re-enacting is that I have the freedom to choose those figures whom I wish to emulate. I have played an English Viscount, a Colonial Patriot, a wily Privateer, a merry Puritan, a Young Confederate, a Highland nobleman and warrior, a Naval Lieutenant, a Missouri boatman, and a Frontier Entrepreneur. But in all of these roles, I strive be a gentleman, first and foremost, beyond the clothing. Although I love dressing up in period attire -- particularly 18th Century fashion -- and dancing and conducting myself in the manner of a historic gentleman, all of it means nothing if I do not carry those manners with me back into the 21st Century and instill them within my heart. It has inspired me in ways others might find peculiar. I am often bowing to ladies upon introduction regardless of whether I am in character as a historic person or not. My work emails are signed with "YHS" -- shorthand for "your humble servant." And most of all, living history helped me get right with GOD. I pray every day that HE will give me wisdom and help me to live right for HIM.

As for our charming Beau, strip away that fancy cravat and tailored suit with the trousers and he is left naked and boorish. What is there in his heart besides a love of self and being famous? He only thinks he's mannered. The Emperor Of Fashion really has no clothes!

Thomas Carlyle wrote:
A Dandy is a clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of Clothes. Every faculty of his soul, spirit, purse, and person is heroically consecrated to this one object, the wearing of Clothes wisely and well: so that the others dress to live, he lives to dress ... And now, for all this perennial Martyrdom, and Poesy, and even Prophecy, what is it that the Dandy asks in return? Solely, we may say, that you would recognize his existence; would admit him to be a living object; or even failing this, a visual object, or thing that will reflect rays of light...
That's not the person I am, and I hope this is not how others see me. It's not the person whom I would want to re-enact. History has many other figures of both fine character and clothing. I can do better than Beau.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cleaning House

In an article at The Daily Beast, former government official Leslie Gelb says Muslims need to do a better job of self-policing to fight terrorism. But what's more, they're cleaning house in all the wrong ways:
Not a week goes by, it seems, without Muslims blowing up other Muslims, and often themselves in the process. Dominating their co-religionists appears to be the top priority of fanatics. When the opportunity presents itself, they will also kill infidels in America, London, Madrid, Indonesia, and anywhere else they can. It’s astonishing to count the number and variety of insurrections, wars, civil wars, incidents, and insurgencies Muslims have ignited. The list includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Chechnya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Gaza, the West Bank, and on and on.

Of the terrorist killings and maimings that have taken place over the last three years, over 90 percent have been Muslim on Muslim, Shiite on Sunni, Sunni on Sunni, or Shiite on Shiite, with rare exceptions.
Gelb omits non-Muslim factors in the above list, but you still gotta wonder: who wants to be part of a faith where so many of the faithful kill each other off?

Fanatical Christians may harass you and tell you you're going to burn. Bible-quoting zealots may do a few bombings. But for the most part, they don't try to blow up planes or crash them into buildings. Real Christians, those who correctly apply GOD's word, don't do these kinds of things, period. They don't take Old Testament verses outlining who should be put to death out of context. They use JESUS as the model for their lives and follow HIS examples.

Christians, by and large, pray for those who aren't getting it. And JESUS lets us know in allegorical form that some people just can't handle GOD'S Truth: Matthew 7:6 (NIV): "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." Note the violence here is perpetrated by the animals on believers, not the other way around.

Not all Muslims are terrorists, but too many terrorists are Muslim. That's not racial profiling -- it's an uncomfortable, inconvenient, politically incorrect truth. And moderate mainstream Muslims can't seem to rein them in.

They're Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

Several reports say NBC is putting Jay Leno back in his late-night spot after dismal ratings for his 10pm/9 Central comedy hour. This isn't about a network canning a losing show; it's a move by suits to ward off an affiliate revolt.

Ever since NBC announced The Jay Leno Show, its affiliates were publicly supportive but privately furious. They knew it was a lame attempt to cut costs and hang on to the late-night talent roster after the net made a deal to hand The Tonight Show over to Conan O'Brien. NBC didn't want the drama that surrounded Leno's takeover of the show from Johnny Carson, which alienated David Letterman and preceded his exit to CBS. But they didn't want Leno bolting to ABC, which would have dropped or bumped Jimmy Kimmel or Nightline or both to make room. Network brass came up with a win-win situation... except that their affiliates lost.

Ed Ansin, owner of Boston's WHDH, threatened to bump Leno's new show. He backed off when he realized NBC would yank his affiliation -- even if it meant the network ended up on a weak former Telemundo station. That was months before the show debuted, and it effectively quelled any other affiliates' grumbling.

Now Leno's show is doing exactly what the station owners and managers feared: saddling them with a weak lead-in that's killing their late news ratings and taking a huge bite out of their revenues during a recession. NBC told them to eat dirt and smile. Well, not anymore.

The NBC affiliates board meets later this month, and if the network hadn't taken action on Leno's show, mutiny would have been in the works. Given NBC's attitude towards the stations that deliver its goods, I'm sure a number of GM's are wishing they could dump the network for Fox, which would be happy to move off of more UHF stations and strengthen its affiliate base. And how about having American Idol as a news lead-in? My college station -- KOMU in Columbia, MO -- ditched NBC for several years in the early 1980's when the network's programming was dismal. You can bet NBC stations would find a way to get out of their programming contracts and go with a net that treats them better.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Reel To Reel: Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock goes Steampunk!

Going Rate: Worth full price for fans of Iron Man
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Fisticuffs, Explosions, Gross Shots of Dead Animals, Black Magic and Downey Jr.'s Mostly Naked Body

Let us suppose the world's most famous consulting detective was created by Stan Lee instead of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That would explain this reboot of the Holmes character (Downey Jr.), who now possesses brawn in equal portion to brain. His deduction is still sharp, but it comes with a twisted, slightly sinister edge and several right hooks and kidney punches. Somebody also told him to ditch the hunters' cap. Dr. Watson (Law) is the beleaguered yet faithful assistant: "When have I ever complained about you practicing the violin at three in the morning, or your mess? Your general lack of hygiene or the fact that you steal my clothes?" He's newly engaged and moving out of 221B Baker Street, about to settle down in dignified Victorian manner.

That settling-down bit will have to wait, however, until Holmes can crack a horrifying mystery. Occult serial murderer Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), whom Holmes has caught and helped send to the gallows, has risen from the grave and is plotting something very very big and very very scary using a substance being cooked up in a backroom lab. Blackwood happens to be a member of a super-secret dark arts group, which is never officially named but puts him on the same level as He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named from the Harry Potter books.

Indeed, the entire film has a quasi-Potter vibe. Sometimes I wondered who scared me more: Blackwood or Holmes, who regularly engages in creepy quasi-scientific pursuits. Never ever leave him alone with your pets. He talks a mile a minute, but his brain runs at 3000 miles per hour. He can cold-read you like a can of tuna. In other words, Downey Jr. is channeling his Tony Stark character from Iron Man, but with more eloquence. We know from the original texts Holmes was a drug addict, but this is merely implied with a few stoner-faced expressions. He has little time for a love life, but you can see his affection for Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), a versatile master criminal who's his intellectual match sans British accent. Holmes spends part of the film trying to figure out her angle while tracking down Blackwood.

Sherlock Holmes captures the flavor, although not all the elements of, steampunk fiction as it imagines an alternate reality for a classic character and cooks up some diabolical devices and potions. Director Guy Ritchie also keeps the film moving, keeping pace with Holmes' fast-talking and flying fists. This is not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes, but it's not some outrageous aberration, either. However, if the kids start digging into the written Holmes, you may need to give them a disclaimer about Victorian England before CGI and DTS.