Saturday, June 29, 2013

Selective Tolerance

by Bill Holmes

In the past few days we have seen examples of tolerance and intolerance. Many of those who are celebrating increased tolerance in one area are showing intolerance in another area. This is nothing new but it has been brought to the forefront, at least to me, this past week.

On the one hand the Supreme Court issued a couple of rulings that increased the governments tolerance of gay marriage and gay rights. On the other hand we have seen extreme intolerance in the case of Paula Deen.

I am glad that the Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and failed to overturn a lower court ruling that California's ban on same sex marriage (Prop 8) was unconstitutional. While the Prop 8 ruling only applies to California and does not change the laws of the other states that ban same sex marriage it is a step in that direction. California has a population of over 38 million which is about 12% of the US population. Likewise the changes to DOMA do not force states to recognize gay marriages or provide equal benefits to same sex couples but it does affect over 1,000 federal laws and rules. I suspect it will take some time to sort out all the implications of the DOMA decision. These two rulings will increase tolerance of gays, at least in the eyes of the US and California governments. Ultimately when government enforces the civil rights of a minority public tolerance of that minority will increase. It doesn't happen overnight but it does happen.

The Paula Deen situation is a classic example of a feeding frenzy. People and companies can't distance themselves from Paula fast enough. They also can't wait to express their intolerance of Deen's past indiscretions and character. Full disclosure, I am not a Paula Deen fan. I don't like her over the top food or over the top personality. She was dishonest and disingenuous about her diabetes to the point of being dangerous to her viewers. I don't watch her TV shows, buy her cookbooks or any of her other products. In spite of that I don't think her current situation is right. At this point we don't really know exactly what she said or when she said it. We may never know all the facts but unless she has been discriminating against people and publicly spouting racial slurs recently, the punishment does not fit the crime.

Let's put this in context. Paula and I are within a month of being the exact same age and were both raised in the same part of the country. There are some differences, I'm a first generation southerner, she is not. I was raised in a large city, she was raised in a more rural environment. We were both raised in a segregated south. Yes folks, there were white only and colored only drinking fountains, restrooms, restaurants and hotels. Many of those places where blacks and whites both went had separate sections. Blacks had to sit in the balcony at the movie theaters. They had there own (inferior) seating sections at the baseball park and football stadium. Blacks might be allowed to go to the back door of a restaurant to get a takeout order but certainly couldn't sit inside with the whites. Of course the schools were segregated. My private school integrated with two blacks in the 1962-63 school year. The public schools were a  couple of years later. It's very probable that Deen never went to school with blacks. It's also a fact that she heard racial slurs as a part of normal conversation during her youth. I'm not just talking about the many slang names and terms used regarding African-Americans but every other ethnic group. Jews, Irish, Italians, Arabs, Germans, Polish, Hispanic, French, Gays and any other group you can think of had derogatory nicknames. Much of the time they weren't even used in a derogatory way or with malicious intent. Everybody used them at least sometimes. Most jokes made fun of one or more of these groups. They were different times. We can not judge the past based on the current standards and morals. What was acceptable in 1813 or 1913 or 1953 or 1963 may not be acceptable in 2013 and vice versa. Just as it will change again by 2033.

I have no idea when Deen last used a racial slur or in what context, she probably doesn't really remember either. I also don't know if she's a racist. What I do know is that the companies that are jumping ship left and right are complete hypocrites. I'm sure that the executives of those companies have used racial slurs in the past. Maybe their companies even discriminated against a minority at some point. Maybe they still discriminate against same sex couples. Herd mentality is in full bloom.

We all pick and choose what we tolerate and what we don't. I suspect that many celebrating the gains recently made by gays are intolerant of Paula Deen's indiscretions. I also think that many who are tolerant and supportive of Deen are intolerant of gays and same sex marriage.

We are all intolerant and prejudice about something. Me, I'm intolerant of hypocrites. What gets you going?  Maybe we should strive to be more tolerant of others' intolerances.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

DVR Cleanup

by Bill Holmes

Did a little DVR cleanup tonight. It always amazes me how much good stuff is on some of our less popular channels. It also amazes me how much stuff I find to record and then forget to watch. Today's review is about one movie and some music programs.

Let's start with the movie. It was Trouble with the Curve starring Clint Eastwood. It was a movie I had on my list to see. Now this should be a home run great movie. It's got Clint Eastwood and it's about baseball. Unfortunately it wasn't a home run, triple or even a double. It was a solid single, eventually. I almost hit the erase button after the first 10 minutes but decided to stick it out. The first few minutes attempt to set up the story and define all the major characters. To do that in a short time, the script makes everyone a stereotype. Those first few minutes are like a bad TV show.

Clint is the old fart baseball scout who can't do his job, or drive, or feed himself, or walk through his house, or pee. Later he seems to function just fine. There's his old friend in the front office, John Goodman, who still believes in him. The young complete ass who thinks computers should replace human scouts. A young, one time prospect, Justin Timberlake, who is now a scout. Clint's daughter, Amy Adams, who is a successful 30 something lawyer who actually wants to be a baseball scout.

The outcome is predictable and totally unrealistic with absolutely no surprises. It turns out that Clint and Amy somewhat save the movie. Goodman and Timberlake do OK. Most of the baseball scenes are believable which is a plus. Unless you are a baseball fan or a big Clint Eastwood fan I can not recommend this movie. Acting - OK. Story - fair. Script - bad.

I also watched a couple of music shows I recorded from PBS and AXS.

The first was Burt Bacharach's Best on PBS. As you may have guessed this show was about the music of Burt Bacharach. Burt has been writing hit music for over 50 years. We are all familiar with many of his songs. To be honest, I would never buy a best of Burt album but he did write several very good songs. I like many of them but probably not all in a row.

I had forgotten that Burt and lyricist Hal David had written hits before the Dionne Warwick years. Those include songs for Marty Robbins, Perry Como, a couple of Motown artists and many others. This program concentrated on the mid 1960's through the next few years.

The program opens with Walk On By sung by Dionne Warwick. The clip looks like it's from an old TV show. The set looks like it was stolen from Sesame Street. Several dancers "walking on by" and a lame attempt by Dionne to dance. Dionne can sing but she can't dance.

Next up was I Say A Little Prayer recording session. It was Dionne, Burt and Hal sitting around a piano in a recording studio with a band. They were going over how to sing the song. No makeup, no production. Dionne was smoking and singing and looked like hell.  She is not an attractive woman but looked particularly bad in this clip. They cut in a couple clips with Dionne, circa 2004, and she still looks pretty bad.

Getting away from Dionne we get Any Day Now by Chuck Jackson then What's New Pussycat? by Tom Jones. One good song and one not so good.

Now we get to one of the highlights of the show. It's The Look of Love by Dusty Springfield. Originally written for the James Bond spoof Casino Royale (1967 version), it turned out to be a huge hit for Dusty. I like the song and Dusty is one of my favorite singers.

Unfortunately Herb Albert followed Dusty with This Guy's In Love With You.  It's not a bad song, but it appeared to be performed live and Herb is not the best singer. Good trumpet player, successful band leader and record executive (he was the A in A&M Records). Dionne sang a This Girl's In Love With You version too. Dionne also sang Alfie, which is supposedly Burt's favorite.

Other songs were Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head by BJ Thomas, One Less Bell To Answer by the Fifth Dimension, What the World Needs Now Is Love  by Jackie DeShannon, (They Long To Be) Close To You by Carpenters, A House Is Not a Home by Dusty, Arthur's Theme by Burt and That's What Friends Are For by Dionne, Elton, Stevie and Gladys. If you don't know who I mean, it doesn't matter.

It's amazing how many great songs Burt and his various collaborators wrote. I will always admire his talent but be jealous that he was married to Angie Dickinson for 15 years. Every guy who came of age in the 60's or 70's knows what I mean.

I also watched a PBS special of the old guard of country. It starred Ray Price, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. Asleep at the Wheel was the backup band. Those guys are all old and have several hard miles under their belt but they still get it done. I have always been a Ray Price fan. He had and has one of the best voices ever in country music. If you are not familiar with Ray, I encourage you to listen to his stuff on YouTube. They all sang their hits. A highlight was when Willie and Ray sang a duet of Crazy and Merle played guitar. I'm not a big country fan, but you gotta love these guys.

Last up was a Tom Petty concert on AXS. Wow - he sang all the Heartbreaker hits. It was a live concert that was filmed in Gainesville, Florida. That is Tom's hometown and close to my old stomping grounds. I didn't take any notes during the show, I just listened and watched. It was absolutely great. Stevie Nicks was his guest and she was great too. Along with Angie, mentioned above, Stevie is one of the women from that era that we remember. Last note - Mike Campbell, Heartbreaker lead guitarist and Jacksonville Ribault HS graduate, had an orange guitar with a Gator logo. Very cool. It was a great concert and I'm going to watch it again. I guess that doesn't count as cleaning up the DVR since I didn't erase it.

I recommend all three music shows if they show up on TV again. The movie not so much.

Of course this is only my opinion. Your tastes and mileage may vary.