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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Eddie Albert

Albert was a consumate film actor. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Roman Holiday  (notable for introducing Audry Hepburn to filmgoers) and The Heartbreak Kid , and co-starred in the original Longest Yard  with Burt Reynolds.

Some might remember him in the '75-'78 TV series Switch  with Robert Wagner, but he was most famous for playing Oliver Wendell Douglas in TVs Green Acres .

What you might not  know was that Green Acres  actually started life as a summer radio show in 1950 titled Granby's Green Acres, and the scripts were transferred almost verbatim to TV.

"Cast: Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet as John and Martha Granby, ex-bank teller and wife who moved to the country to become farmers. Louise Erickson as Janice, their daughter. Parley Baer as Eb, the [old] hired hand. Announcer: Bob LeMond; Music: Opie Cates; Writer-Producer-Director: Jay Sommers. Granby's Green Acres  grew out of characters played by Gale Gordon and Bea Benadaret on the Lucille Ball series "My Favorite Husband ."

You can listen to four of the programs at the link.

Over the past few weeks I've been rediscovering the old radio shows my parents talked about--everything from Father Knows Best  to Abbot and Costello's classic "Who's on First?" As a member of the TV generation, I'm amazed at the number of great shows out there--many of them transferred to television to become equally as popular.

Considering the success of Nick at Night  and TVLand , I've been wondering… Why hasn't some enterprising radio programmer started a regular evening line up with a collection of these old shows? It would give "Talk Radio" a whole new meaning.

See--er--listen for yourself.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


I deliberately delayed writing about Star Wars: Revenge of The Sith  because, well, frankly, there have been enough tragedies to deal with over the past twelve months. As a rabid fan (some might say "geek") of the original who lined up to see Phantom Menace , I feel as if I've watched a dear friend die an agonizing death of a long, wasting disease.

My reluctance also stemmed from having actually been a movie critic during the 80's and 90's (yes, I got paid), making it difficult to see any movie without breaking it down into its component parts. When I first saw Phantom Menace , I was appalled--hated it on the spot. But everyone around me was raving, so I decided perhaps the wee hours viewing plus a very bad cold was affecting my opinion. Two viewings later I decided neither had influenced my original opinion which generally boiled down to something like suffering through the longest video game in history.

I was wrong. In a video game you would have had the option to take out Jar Jar Binks on Level One.

The Star Wars  saga is an example of how technological advancement is not always a good thing. The original dazzled because, after a decade of being inundated by naval-gazing films lecturing on the gray area of morality, or the gory glorification of murderous mafioso, we were suddenly being treated to a movie that said there was, after all, an absolute right and wrong. Whatever Lucas' religious beliefs, with the Force he tapped into the simple fact there is a supernatural element in every religion that we had all discarded and forgotten. Whether I agreed with the idea of accessing the Universal Consciousness certainly didn't matter. Lucas seemed to grasp the duality of the human spirit--the simple truth that we will fall into the Dark Side without the influence of a Greater Power of Good.

And he did it within the flimsiest of frameworks.

Lucas claims now it was all in response to Vietnam and the Cold War. Well, fine--he can rewrite his own history if he wants. But the original Star Wars  owed much more to the adventures of the late 30's and 40's, when the world was battling the Nazi juggernaut. Sure, the characters were central casting stereotypes. Fortunately they were fleshed out by actors who actually managed to act --and who rioted through the film with a gleam in their eyes that said "we know this is a totally unbelievable space fantasy, but what the hell--we're having fun!"

When The Empire Strikes Back  was released, I was writing reviews. I recall taking heat for insisting Vader was lying when he told Luke he was his father (not to mention being royally pissed off at Han Solo being left frozen in cryptonite). To this day I wonder about Lucas' claims that he had the entire story outlined from the beginning. I firmly believed Vader was merely being a manipulative bastard to serve his own--and the Emperor's--ends.

By Return of the Jedi , I decided Lucas was making it up as he went along. He had painted himself into a corner with the "father" line and was in the process of desperately trying to work his way out. The whole story arc felt less like it had been designed from the get-go and more like a jigsaw puzzle Lucas was assembling by pounding round pieces into square slots. As for the Ewoks, their appearance firmly cemented my opinion Lucas had sold out to the Dark Side of Making Millions With Market Tie-Ins.

I was disappointed, yet it didn't stop me from enjoying the film. How could you not  enjoy the opening hour at Jabba's palace and the subsequent battle? Yes, at the end Vader's "conversion" was hackneyed, and Luke was a bit too sappy, but it was acceptable within the happily-ever-after framework.

There is no way one can compare the current crop of "Star Wars" films--pandering, preachy, and ponderous in spite of the brilliantly beautiful special effects--with the original trilogy. If Vader's reversion to the Light Side in ROTJ was formulaic, Anakin's descent into the Dark Side is shallow and selfish.

Every artist knows there is a point during creation that you have to stop, step away, and let everything alone. One more word, one more note, one more brushstroke--one more computer-generated light saber battle--and the masterpiece is ruined.

Sadly George Lucas never learned that lesson.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Email - Part IV - The Fanatics

Part I. Part II. Part III.

You knew it would eventually come down to…the Jews , didn't you? Oh, it takes her a while--and she begins with Christian-bashing as a smoke-screen--but you know if a certain type of person talks long enough, they eventually sink to the bottom.

Look seriously you can say there are fanatical muslims but what about fanatical christians.

When was the last time "fanatical" Christians (or Jews) rioted and murdered because it was rumored someone threw the Bible or the Torah down a toilet? In fact, when Palestinian terriorists holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, it was "rumored" they used the Bible as toilet paper. Where was the rioting/burning/killing across the American Bible Belt over that incident?

there used to be plenty though now there are considerably less and though they do not commit terrorist acts they aren't any better.

Are you actually attempting to claim that Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell saying something really, really, really  stupid on television is the same as Islamic terrorists beheading someone on television? And please--please---detail the "plenty" of murderous, "fanatical" Christians who bludgeon, behead, and burn at the drop of a headscarf.

I mean look at the amish, thre was poor girl in her teens repeatdly raped by her brothers her parents having full knowledge but doing nothing about it saying God will punish him when his DEAD.Not much use to the girl don't you think.

No, it isn't. Since I grew up very near various Amish communities, I also understand the various "orders" within that religion. The abuses have occurred in those considered Old Order--extremely insular--dare I say inbred--communities. It is, in fact, a prime example of what happens to religious sects that cut themselves off from--or attempt to insulate themselves from--general society. Exactly what far too many Muslims themselves do, which is why I could cite the same type of stories from those communities. But they carry it one step further. The strict Islamist father would kill the girl, claiming it was her fault she was molested/raped by her brother.

And don't forget the Jews. They have their fanatics as well who are just as bad as the muslim fanatics. Its just you don't hear much them because their not controversial, not news worthy.

You're kidding, right?

It always comes down to the Jews. That's your real problem, isn't it? What's the matter--did your mother choke on a matzah ball while you were in vitro ?

As far as not being "news worthy"… Do you live in a cave? Not a day passes without the nation of Israel--or Jews of any nationality--being blamed for something . Check that--blamed for everything . Jews (and Christians) are routinely castigated for every ill that befalls the world--including being blamed for nineteen Arab Muslims flying three airplanes into the WTC and Pentagon (and trying with a fourth).

Start reading this blog and follow all the various links if you're really interested in learning.

The point I'm trying to make before you critise the so called enemies look at your friends, they are not any better. The only difference is they'er not as news worhty.Every religion and culture has to go through the cycle of violence. Give it a few more hundred years and it will pass. [Emphasis mine.]

That last is the most idiotic statement I have ever read.

Muslims have been in a cycle of violence since 622 AD--that's one thousand three hundred eight-three years --the longest case of pubescent angst in the history of the universe.

Look at Judaism and Christianity. Though of course you will never fully eliminate fanatics but you shouldn't be so harsh on them it isn't like muslims are the only one with fanatics. Besides fighting doesn't solve anything just keeps the cycle going. There really are no enemies only delusion and misinterpretation. Open your mind. Tunnel vision kills people.

Okay, snuff out the weed, get clean, get sober, and break the damn Joan Baez CD. That meme was old back in the 60's, and I've already lived through that crap.

All you have to do is look through history it is what it's there for to teach people. Just no one wants to learn.

I’m a teacher. I've been a teacher for thirty years. Don't try to lecture me on history, little girl--at least not until you've actually grown up and learned how to read and write properly.

The Email - Part III - Moral Relativism aka "The Inquisition"

Part I. Part II.

I will never understand why debaters (?) always try to use this argument--as if they think Christians believe the inquisitions were a good thing.

Besides you could say fanatical muslims have caused many problems through the world but what exactly did the inquisition do in the middle ages? I don't think they were very nice people.

This argument is called "moral relativism," in case you were wondering.

Before I go any further, I'd like to offer a free history lesson. Long before the current War on Terror, Winston Churchill described Islam as "that religion which above all others, was founded and propagated by the sword - the tenets and principles of which are incentives to slaughter and which in three continents had produced fighting breeds of men (and) stimulates a wild and merciless fanaticism."

As far as inquisitions--well--today they're called "ethnic cleansing," and the Muslims have turned it into an art form. Look at Kosovo where Muslim mobs have burned down about 300 churches and religious facilities aiming to establish an Islamic Theocratic dictatorship. Or perhaps you should visit Sudan and see what Islamic government troops have done to African Christians in Darfur. After that you can move on to Nigeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Armenia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Russia, the Kashmir, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Technically Muslims caused  the infamous Spanish Inquisition--which began almost immediately after they were driven out of Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella (yes, the same who commissioned Christopher Columbus) decided to unify Spain under Catholicism after all the wars, division, and strife of the previous centuries. Their way of creating a "strong" country was to drive out all non-Catholics one way or the other. Not a good idea, but they stuck to it.

An "inquisition" was as much a political tool as a religious one. The Romans used it as their empire began to crumble, so it was certainly not the sole province of "Christians." There was a whole shopping list of medieval "inquisitions" from The Knights Templar to Joan of Arc and beyond. Torquemada of Spain, however, was the most infamous Inquisitor and, to their credit, the Catholic Church and the Pope tried to intervene. Unfortunately, having found a convenient political bludgeon, the Spanish rulers ignored them.

So… The Spanish Inquisition lasted from 1478 to 1834. Muslim ethnic-cleansing of anyone who is not Muslim started in 622 and continues to this day. Christians learn from their mistakes. Muslims won't even admit they make any.

And to use Cheneya [I think she means Chechnya] as an example, I think you should know most of those people don't have a choice. Many are forced to partake in these acts of terrorism else their families are killed by the fanatics.

A note about Chechnya. It was long a part of the Muslim empire of Central Asia including Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In 1858 Chechen leader Imam Shamil and his troops (primarily Sunni Muslims) attempted to establish an Islamic state, only to be defeated by Imperial Russia. During WWII the Chechens whole-heartedly joined Hitler's attack against Russia, enthusiastically killing Jews, Gypsies, and other "undesirables" right along with Red Army troops. So the Chechen people have a long history of hatred for Russia and certainly do not need to be "forced" to fight against those they consider their long-term, historic enemies.

However, every  human being with a working brain has a choice. Those without a working conscience  are another story.

I can't say, at this moment, what I'd do. But as a Christian, I certainly hope if I had to choose between saving hundreds of innocent children or my family…I hope I'd have the guts to save the the kids.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Email - Part II - Dracula Redux

Part I.

Somehow I never thought of using the non compos mentis  defense for Dracula.

Also to say Vald Dracul knew what he was doing is absurd. You are talking about a guy who cut open his mistress's stomach just to find out if she was pregnant. The man for god's sake ran away as soon as he heard the turks were coming. It was just lucky the Turks got scared shitless by the thousansa of kebabed people Dracul had surrounding his castle for his own personal pleasure.

Ironically it wasn't just Vlad Dracul who battled the Muslim enemy. Timur the Mongol (or Tamerlane-- Christopher Marlowe's play Tamburlaine  recounts his conquests) claimed--falsely--to be a descendant of Genghis Khan. Even more ironic--he was a Muslim who slaughtered his way though most of the Muslim Middle East, conquering Persia, several Russian states, the Crimea, Dehli, Georgia, Aleppo, and Baghdad.

At the time (1402) his campaigns saved Constantinople. His army wiped out the forces of Islam and divided the Ottoman Empire among several princes, reducing it to a state of vassalage. When he died, however, the Ottoman's were back in business, intent on expanding their empire into the Balkans.

Long into the 15th century the Ottoman Empire never ceased their attempt to take Christian Europe, focusing particularly on the Balkans and Constantinople, heart of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was only three years before Vlad Dracul took power that the siege and conquest of Constantinople took place. The city had lasted two months again Mohammed II, but, after a bloody conflict that killed Emperor Constantine XII, Contantinople fell. There followed wholesale slaughter--as was to be expected from Muslim conquerors. It was reported Mohammed II rode over the piles of corpses into the Church of St. Sophia, entered it on horseback, and declared it a mosque.

This is the history Prince Vlad Dracul knew--along with the fall of the Balkan Orthodox states of Bulgaria and Serbia--when the Muslim hordes turned their attention toward Romania. Ergo--he knew exactly what to expect and what he was doing. Whether or not he took pleasure in impaling his enemies and displaying them across the landscape as far as the eye could see, I have no idea. But it wasn't me who listed him in reports as one of the "Christian princes" who led the resistance against the Ottomans.

Romanian prices led Christian resistance against the Ottomans for centuries. They included Mircea the Elder in Wallachia (1386-1418); Ioan Corvin of Hunedoara, Duke of Transylvania (1438-1456), afterwards regent of Hungary; Vlad the Impaler in Wallachia (1456-1463); Stephen the Great and Holy in Moldavia (1456-1504),…and Michael the Brave of Wallachia (1593-1601), who for the first time united the three Romanian Principalities into a single state in 1600, and has since remained a symbol of unity for the Romanian People."

Prince Vlad died fighting the Muslim hordes. His head was chopped off (sound familiar?) and carried back to Constantinople where it was displayed on a stake. Thanks to Bram Stoker, however, no one remembers that footnote of history. And, thanks to the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu claiming Dracula was his idol, many are loathe to consider Vlad Tepes might, in some way, be a hero.

The Email - Part I - The Crusades

Apparently a girl in Australia (I'm guessing from her email addy and I won't use her name without permission) read a lot of what I've written over time--God know why. Anyway, she felt strongly enough--or had been so conditioned by the pc police--to write me at length. At such length, in fact, it will take a few posts to respond to all her misconceptions.

The crusades were never about religion

It was indeed about strong religious beliefs, especially when the European Christians learned how the Islamicists were harassing Christian pilgrims and teachers in Jerusalem, and attempting to destroy the Eastern Orthodox Church. Read the letters written during that time if you're really interested in "learning history."

and it was the christians who started it.

Wrong. It was the Muslims who started it--by invading Christian Europe, then attempting to push Christians out of Jerusalem after they had lived there for over 1,000 years. In case you can't figure it out on your own, Islam was created by Mohammed 622 years after  Jesus was crucified and at least 3,000 years or more after the Israelites settled the area.

For the first ten years of Islam, Mohammed spent his time solidifying his base in Medina and gathering his forces to take Mecca. He died two years after that event and the Koran was compiled a year later. The over the next 100 years, the leaders who followed Mohammed expanded their conquest across the Middle East, pushing into France, where they were finally defeated at Tours by Charles Martel in 732 AD. During this period the Muslims conquered Syria, Palestine, Persia, North Africa, Spain, and Egypt--where they destroyed the famous library and bookcopying industry of Alexandria because no book aside from the Koran was to be read. They had also pushed as far east as India and managed inroads in Sicily within the next fifty years. Christian Europe was very aware of the "personality" and intentions of the Muslims.

The European kings, dukes and othe aristocrates had too many sons and couldn't divide their wealth amoung them after their death. So the father's told the son they least liked to go to the middle east, kill a few people and get your own land and wealth. It took many years before people were fighting for religion.

Wrong again. For your edification, modern movies are not a good way to learn history. Unfortunately a number of peasant groups did leave before the official start of the First Crusades, all of them engaging in various forms of villainy, from massacring Jews to looting and raping.

The nobles themselves who led the Crusades did so out of a desire to restore the Holy Land to Christian control. Philip I of France, William II of England, and Henry IV of Germany, led the First Crusade--probably to get back into the good graces of the Pope--but they led it nevertheless.

A partial list of other participants in the successful First Crusade includes Count Stephen of Blois and Chartes; Bohemond of Taranto, Count of the Normans; Godfrey, Duke de Bouillon of Lorraine; Raymond of Toulouse, Count of St. Gilles (?), Hugh (the Great?) of Vermandois, brother of the King of France; Baldwin of Boulogne; Robert, Count of Flanders; and Robert, Count of Normandy.

Others involved over the years:

Second Crusade - Conrad III of Germany and Louis VII of France led it and Louis' wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, accompanied him.

Third Crusades started when Saladin took Jerusalem in 1187. Philip Augustus of France, Frederick Barbarosa of Germany and Richard the Lionhearted of England led the armies.

Although some kings and many, many vassal nobles took part in the next half dozen Crusades (Emperor Frederick II - Sixth Crusade; Louis IX of France - Seventh Crusade; Louis IX and Prince Edward of England - Eighth Crusade) the bottom line was: with the exception of the Knights Templar (who were rumored  to have found the treasures of Solomon's Temple) neither wealth nor lands were acquired by anyone, rich or poor.

Back for a While

I haven't been blogging for a couple of reasons. First because I've been dealing with a host of personal issues and did not want to become a whiny, navel-gazing blogger endlessly rehashing my problems. If they touch mainstream issues (such as Social Security) I might make a comment now and then, but no one needs to be bored with endless alarms and depressions.

Second, I frankly got bored with saying the same thing about the same outrages over and over and over and over again. There are certain givens--biased media, perdifious Democrats, liberal Hollywood, etc. etc.--that don't seem to ever go away.

Now I'll settle for small victories--like calling the local radio news show, raising hell with the on-air "Voice" until the news director gets on the line, then convincing them to stop announcing the Republicans intended to "change tradition" over the judicial filibuster. Hey, it worked. And the misinformation sent out over the wire services to the local affiliates was edited--out.

One thing, however, has spurred me back on line. I recently received an email commenting on a number of issues I've discussed. Rarely does one have the opportunity to read so much ignorance in one place.

There is so much, in fact, I'll have to handle it in a series of posts.