Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Good Friday" still good in Iowa

Here's what one Iowa town thought was a great political idea. Let's suddenly change the name of a 2000 year old holiday and one that's been celebrated in the town since practically its founding because maybe, just maybe...someone perhaps...possibly could be offended by it.

That's what the city of Davenport Iowa did this week when it followed the suggestion from their civil rights commission to change the name of the Good Friday holiday to the "Spring Holiday". You have to wonder how hammered you'd have to be on cheap malt liquor before that suddenly became a good idea.

Seems City Administrator Chris Main didn't even have it within his power to do when he sent around a memo to all city officials declaring the change. Council members were caught off guard when they found out they had been circumvented and after a hoopla where the town population nearly crippled the phone lines with angry calls to city hall, the short lived "Spring Holiday" quickly reverted back to "Good Friday".

Score one for common sense. Even here in Hong Kong it is a bank holiday on Good Friday!

Hey, I know a good idea. Speaking of Hong Kong. We will have a public holiday next week called "Ching Ming" where traditionally the Chinese will visit and sweep the graves of their deceased relatives. Yet there are tens of thousands of non-Chinese that live here and could be offended by the exclusiveness of the holiday. Perhaps I should lobby to have the holiday name changed to the "Spring Sweep" complete with Bar-B-Q and fireworks...

...yeah, that would be a good idea.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good-bye Robert Culp

Actor Robert Culp passed away this week and I just want to take a moment to pay tribute to the man for the small part of my life he influenced. Many obituaries focus on his groundbreaking TV series I Spy which teamed him with Bill Cosby in a time when blacks and whites didn't team together for all that much. Unfortunately, that series was even before my time. No, it was his portrayal of Special Agent Bill Maxwell in the series The Greatest American Hero that I have fond memories of.

Bill Maxwell was a tough, communist hunting, American loving crusader who was hard as nails on the outside but had a heart of gold on the inside. It was the early 80's and Maxwell was the poster child for the Reagan Revolution. Culp was brilliant in the role and became thee role model for all of us young, coming of age Republicans. It was a simpler time...and I miss it! So thanks Mr. Culp for the in peace!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Oscar Recap

Throwing an "Oscar" party has been little more difficult since moving back to Asia. The 13 hour time difference means Sunday evening in the States is Monday morning here and have you ever tried to throw a party on a Monday morning work day? Yeah, you see my dilemma.

This year though I vowed to at least have a little family party on Monday evening when the Hong Kong station here rebroadcasts the whole show complete with a half hour of Red Carpet. I managed to not look at the news online all day to keep any advance knowledge about winners from ruining the experience. Tammy skillfully did her best to recreate "Chipoltle" burritos to enjoy during the show. In the end though, it wasn't as fun as being surrounded with friends enjoying a few drinks as we chit chatted about movie trivia...but it was close.

Now for the review:

The Hosts:I was excited when I heard Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were going to host together. I thought the chemistry would be brilliant. In the end though it was...OK. Many of the jokes seemed forced and juvenile which leads me to...

The Writers: Quit hiring Bruce Vilanch to write for the Oscars! The guy has been doing it for 20 years and in an era of clever TV comedy writing such as Arrested Development and 30 Rock surely we don't need to hire a guy who was writing when the dialogue between Knight Rider and KITT was considered witty banter.

The Opening: All I could think of was the tragic Snow White / Rob Lowe duet from 20 years ago. Who thought that opening the Academy Awards with a dance number by Doogie Howser was a good idea?...probably Bruce Vilanch

The John Hughes Memoriam: OK, some reviewers criticized this segment as to much time given to the death of a niche director. Why were Hollywood legends Lauren Becall & Roger Corman given a quick award and seated without saying a word while "C" lister Judd Nelson was able to discuss his Breakfast Club days. Fair point but I admit, I'm biased. John Hughes spoke to "my generation". I'm 43 and all of the John Hughes movie actors that gave tribute during the segment (Matthew Brodrick, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Cryer, and Molly Ringwald) are all my age. They were the faces I grew up on so...I lovedit!

The Winners: The frontrunners for Best Picture were Avatar and The Hurt Locker and I think the Academy got it right. The Hurt Locker was a much better film that kept me riveted until the end. Avatar was an enjoyable little popcorn movie that retold Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves but with blue people instead of American Indians. Jeff Bridges finally got his Best Actor for being Jeff Bridges. Congrats to The Dude! And I love Sandra Bullock...but best actress? Maybe Meg Ryan should have got one back in the day for You've Got Mail.

"What Were They Thinking?" Moments Where was Farrah Fawcett in the "Memoriam" segment of the show? Farrah, whose death in the summer was overshadowed suddenly by the death of Michael Jackson, was slighted by fate again when the pop singer (whose film credentials are dubious) was included but Fawcett was not. And when Kathryn Bigelow won the Best Director award (and was the first female to do so) the orchestra struck up a rendition of Helen Reddy's "I am Woman". Very poor taste and embarrassing to a wonderful director who has made it known that she wants to be recognized for her directing achievements apart from her gender.

The conclusion: The producers of this year's Oscars promised a reboot...a new angle to the show. Overall I say they failed in that goal but they did give us what was hardly the best (or worst) Oscar show of the last few years. Next year...NEW WRITERS!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Selling Fear

Would someone please save the Republicans from themselves! One of the charges that gets leveled at the GOP on a regular basis is that when they don't have anything of substance to offer, they sell fear!

Well, in an exclusive, Politico has uncovered a Powerpoint presentation used to train GOP fundraisers on what buttons to push when attempting to extract donations. The presentation demonstrates a cynical and borderline contemptuous attitude toward the Republican rank and file that it seems are are easily prone to appeals to their ego and gimmick give-aways.

The powerpoint goes on to explain that when the GOP doesn't control the Congress or the White House, they can use fear & socialism to rouse the passions of people. Are you kidding me? Do we really have to sell fear?

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What is really disturbing though are images of President Obama done up in white face and made to look like the Joker. Note to GOP: there is a difference between smart political satire and bad taste. Someone needs to be hired over there that can distinguish the difference. Even Republican Joe Scarsbough says in the clip that not only is it childish, "its in such bad form that whoever created it needs to be fired."

I'm currently reading Richard Hoefsteader's book "The American Political Tradition" and in it he highlights the disdain America's Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, had for the mob mentality on display in recent Republican stratagy .

I'm beginning to wonder if today's GOP leaders, who so often invoke the Founders in their grandstanding, realize in what utter contempt those men would actually hold them in.