Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983
STMcC in downtown Los Angeles, circa 1983

Monday, November 11, 2019

SHUT THE HELL UP!

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LISTENING TO GOD
by Charles Stanley
copyright: 1996
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No, I assure you, I’m not cursing with that review title; I mean it in the literal sense: One cannot be LISTENING TO GOD and simultaneously hearing the hellish voice of “this world.” [John 14:30]
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Several years ago, a friend in Alabama sent me a number of VHS tapes on which she had recorded Sunday sermons by CHARLES STANLEY that were broadcasted on TV.  I was unfamiliar with him at the time, but he was her favorite man of God.  Now, I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of TV evangelists – I’d sooner take my chances with a used car salesman or a politician.  (OK, not the politician; I just tossed that in for effect.)  And though I’m not what one would call a “proper” Christian, I was impressed with Dr. Stanley - theological disagreements notwithstanding.  No, he isn’t funny like Adrian Rogers, he doesn’t have the powerful oratory talent of John Hagee, he doesn’t possess the charismatic presence of the legendary priest from the Russian Orthodox Church, Yoey O’Dogherty.  But what Charles Stanley DOES have going for him is a thorough understanding of the deepest Spiritual principles; he is grounded in The Word Of God (a.k.a., The Holy Bible).
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I recently purchased LISTENING TO GOD by Charles Stanley because 2006 has been – Spiritually speaking – my worst year since accepting the Atonement of Jesus Christ a dozen years ago. (Every year ending in the number six for the last three decades has been bad for me.  My personal 666?  Just joking.)  I even stopped meditating after more than eleven years of daily practice. Yeah, it’s been a rotten year!  I thought that this book might reignite my passion for meditation (or “sitting before the Lord” as Dr. Stanley likes to call it).  And it did.  I’m now “shutting the hell up” for a period each day and listening for my Creator’s “still small Voice” again.  [See 1 Kings 19:11-13]
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It surprised me to find that Stanley had written many things that I have so often said in counseling others over the years.  For instance:
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“If you are going to develop a relationship with another person, you have to converse with that person in some manner.  That means both talking and listening.” [pg. iv]  (* STMcC: When a person has learned to hear God, I call it having a “realationship” with Him!)
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“I believe God dearly loves to see Bibles that are marked with oil from our fingers... and noted with dates and insights.” [pg. 1]  (* STMcC: My Bible is loaded with margin notes.  If you want God to clarify some Biblical passage for you, write a “?” next to it in the margin and then wait, watch, and listen.)
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“We may be trying to understand the Bible solely with our minds, which is always futile.  The Bible is a spiritual book.  It speaks to and is applied to the spirit.” [pg. 10]
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“It is not enough that we comprehend the truth.  We must be conformed to the truth.” [pg. 13]
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“God works from the inside out.” [pg. 109] (* STMcC: Charles Stanley is correct, but do you know why?  Because “the Kingdom of God is within you.”  See Luke 17:21.)
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A Catholic friend of mine at work does not believe God actually speaks to us. He is wrong!  My own transformation began on January 14, 1992, when I clearly heard God speak in my mind. He gently but effectively admonished me by merely asking me two questions, and my own answers were the rod of correction.  Only an unfathomable, creative God could have pulled that off! Years later, He urged me to sobriety by saying with crystal clarity in my head, regarding alcohol, “It’s a false God.  It’s a false God.”
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And that brings up another point. Stanley mentions the fact that often, God will send us a message and then confirm it. [See Genesis 41:32]  Note that God repeated Himself in calling alcohol my false god.  Although God usually communicates with us in subtle but unmistakable ways, (the “still small Voice”), Charles Stanley is right:  “We must never limit God in the methods that He uses to speak to us.” Because occasionally He can even use the sledgehammer approach...
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Once, I woke up to find that in the night, my truck had been moved nearly horizontally in its parking spot.  I had to track down a fellow and ask him to move his vehicle so I could back mine out.  My faith had weakened and I had been depressed recently and the message seemed to be, “You’re out of alignment.”  I pondered the bizarre event all day – it was unexplainable – and pulling back into my parking space that night after work, I thought: Well, if that’s REALLY a message from God, He will send a confirmation soon. In this case, "soon" meant 45 seconds later when I found myself locked out of my apartment by the internal chain on the door. When I finally managed to wake my Brother, who let me in, he insisted that he had not chained the door (we lived alone), and I believe him because he’d never done it before, and it never occurred again. It seemed my depression and lack of faith was "locking me out of my realationship with The Lord". I got the message.
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I also believe that on three occasions, God has sent angels to me with words of encouragement. But this sort of realationship with The Creator is really built in silence, LISTENING TO GOD.  There is nothing like Bible study (not reading, but studying) and meditation to make us conscious of God’s Love and Presence in our lives.  (A great Bible companion is the book [link> LEARN THE BIBLE IN 24 HOURS by Chuck Missler.)
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LISTENING TO GOD by Charles Stanley is 5-Star material in a 4-Star presentation. His writing, while brimming with profound insights, is a tad bland – similar to some of his sermons.  And while he does illustrate some points using personal experiences, it is always in the vaguest of terms – not detailed enough to make them truly compelling.  Still, this book is too important to downgrade from five stars.
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I have found it best to begin every meditation session with a prayer for someone else, especially an “enemy” [see Matthew 5:23,24], and also a slow, thoughtful recitation of The Lord’s Prayer [Matthew 6:9-13] And once you’ve initiated a daily meditation program, never stop (unlike that maroon, Stephen T. McCarthy). Well look, I’m gonna shut the hell up now and go listen for The Voice of Heaven, so... SHHHhhhh.....
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, September 26, 2019

A “REAL” PIECE OF HARD ROCK CAFE HISTORY

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MORRISON HOTEL
by The Doors
released: 1970
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'MORRISON HOTEL' kicks off with the hard-driving 'ROADHOUSE BLUES', which contains Rock music’s most incisive and “celebratory” lyric of nihilism: “I WOKE UP THIS MORNING AND I GOT MYSELF A BEER; THE FUTURE’S UNCERTAIN AND THE END IS ALWAYS NEAR.” No punk rocker ever said it so well! I no longer think the future’s uncertain, even though the end is certainly near. But I could so relate to Jim Morrison’s outlook during my dark, angsty late teens and early twenties when I nearly played the grooves off of 'MORRISON HOTEL' by The Doors, and many mornings I headed for the refrigerator, Excedrin in hand, hoping to find 12 ounces of the hair of the dog that bit me the night before.
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As I was recently telling a friend, in hindsight I can see how the Jazz that influenced Rock groups I so favored in my youth inevitably led me to the real Jazz I would come to embrace as my favorite music genre. Groups like The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Traffic, Supertramp, Chicago, and The Doors all contained notable Jazz stylings that appealed to me even if in my youthful ignorance I was unable to recognize the common denominator.
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I owned the entire Doors catalogue in my twenties, but when I sold all of my licorice pizzas and converted to compact discs at thirty, I repurchased very few of my Rock albums. My tastes had changed by then and my Gothic mind-set (yes, I was Gothic before it had mass appeal among young people or even an identifiable label) had given way to the reality of Spiritual Light – also sometimes called “Love.” However, talking about The Doors with my friend the other day, and opening the doors of our memories, I was inspired to pick up a copy of what had always been my favorite of the band’s original releases, 'MORRISON HOTEL'. (It was followed closely by 'L.A. WOMAN'.)
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The music itself is a collection of rhythmically pronounced, highly energetic road rockers, and beautifully rolling ballads (and then there’s the sly 'THE SPY', which defies categorization). If you’re a female attracted to males, yer gonna think Jimbo’s voice is megaerotic on these ballads because even I think his voice is megaerotic, and I happen to be a man attracted exclusively to women! There’s not a bad song on 'MORRISON HOTEL', though I find 'WAITING FOR THE SUN' and 'SHIP OF FOOLS' to be just “Eh.” Yet they are more than compensated for by all the other memorable tunes, of which 'PEACE FROG' is my main man... er... amphibian, I mean. OK, enough about the cool, megaerotic music. Now I’m gonna tell ya the little known history behind this classic Rock album:
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In 1970, photographer Henry Diltz sought to get a picture of the members of The Doors at the Morrison Hotel for the album’s cover. The hotel was located in a seedy section of downtown Los Angeles (1246 South Hope Street) but the owner of the hotel declined to give his permission to shoot there. So shortly afterwards, Diltz had the band run in quickly anyway and when they positioned themselves under the “Morrison Hotel” window lettering, he snapped a couple quick pictures from the sidewalk outside. And there’s your album cover!
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Collectively, the album was titled 'MORRISON HOTEL', but whereas side two of the album (tracks 7-11) was originally also called ‘Morrison Hotel’, side one (tracks 1-6) was actually named ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ (the CDs still come labeled this way). The photograph on the album’s backside shows several old geezers hanging around outside a neighborhood dive called “Hard Rock Cafe”, and the inner gate photo displays Morrison and Company relaxing inside that same dive with the “regulars” and prepared to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to some dying Budweiser bottles.
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This little “adult juice joint” located on L.A.’s famous “Skid Row” (aka The School Of Hard [Rock] Knocks) was the FIRST – the “REAL” – HARD ROCK CAFE! It was located at 300 East 5th Street ("The Nickel") - the address is visible above the door in the photo. Many years later, when entrepreneurs got the idea to open a fancy Rock ‘N’ Roll themed bar and grill at L.A.’s upscale Beverly Center mall at Beverly and San Vicente, they were required to pay the owner of the decrepit Hard Rock Cafe dive on Skid Row for the use of the name. THE HARD ROCK CAFE has since become a world famous establishment with franchises located in New York, Hawaii, London, Tokyo, and elsewhere. And while the “first” Hard Rock Cafe was indeed founded in The City Of Angels, it was a little East of its present location in an area you wouldn’t want to be at night without a gun in your pocket.
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(*Incidentally, the above bit of trivia, and much more like it, can be found in Art Fein’s fine little book [link> ‘THE L.A. MUSICAL HISTORY TOUR’, recently reviewed on this site by Yours Truly.)
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The next time you visit Los Angeles, be sure to crank up 'MORRISON HOTEL' in your car and (with your windows rolled up and the doors locked) cruise by the location of the ORIGINAL “Hard Rock Cafe” in downtown - just to say you’ve been there. And listen, if some grizzled bum on 5th Street asks you for a buck, give it to him; he might be some old friend I used to party with.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Sunday, September 22, 2019

MOTHER’S NATURE!

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MOTHER TERESA
starring Olivia Hussey
2003
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Tagline: 
“HER HEART FOUND THE FORGOTTEN, 
HER FAITH FOUND A WAY.”
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On September 5, 1997, when Mother Teresa died, I did something that I rarely do when a person dies: I cried. I didn’t cry out of mourning for Mother Teresa; I knew that she was now getting a well-deserved rest and reward. When a person leaves their physical instrument, they are flying closer to God, so I had no reason to be sad for Mother Teresa. I cried for the world because this sorry, old, dilapidated and Spiritually poor globe had just lost one of its most prayerful and positively influential examples of Christ’s Love for His brothers and sisters!
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I have never been Catholic, and I never will be, but Mother Teresa remains one of my favorite personal heroes. She would probably top my list of “Greatest Figures Of The Twentieth Century”. I can think of no one from my lifetime who more exemplified the manner of life that I believe Jesus Christ calls us to live. I am nothing less than astonished and severely humbled when I think of her and the women who volunteered to work as she did. As I recently wrote in an E-mail to a new friend, “There was probably no stronger woman (or man) from her generation.” The thought of her and her Missionaries of Charity really stirs my heart.
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I gave a DVD copy of 'MOTHER TERESA', starring Olivia Hussey, to Good Friend Melanie for Christmas this year. (I gave her a couple of other good things, too, because that’s just the kind of guy I am.) But she enjoyed the movie so much that I borrowed it from her one day and watched it that very night. And I enjoyed it just as much.
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It begins with Teresa’s “calling within a calling” when she observes how the abandoned sick are dying like dogs in the streets of Calcutta, and she receives a sign from Jesus that she is to serve “the poorest of the poor”. She subsequently embarks on an awe-inspiring journey to see the Face of her Lord in the poor, and to show them the Face of His Love in exchange. The film ends just two years before her death, when, in a revelatory moment, she realizes the folly of her Association, and in essence, rediscovers her roots; “returns to the streets” in her “disorganized” Way - in a manner of speaking.
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Throughout this lifelong journey, Mother Teresa must overcome myriad obstacles, some in the form of human beings who, from their materialistic world-view, can’t possibly understand her mission or have faith in her intentions; and some in the form of natural hardships and the opposing work of God’s unseen antagonist. The movie gives us a glimpse of some of the “miraculous” coincidences, where somehow Mother Teresa always seemed to get bailed out of an impossible situation by an equally invisible Friend. (In actuality, there were many more miracles related to Mother Teresa’s life than are depicted here!)
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Olivia Hussey, a real beauty in her youth but always a very serious actress, gives a very nice, understated performance. It’s a bit uncanny how much she looks like the older Mother Teresa, and it’s nearly preternatural how she mastered the aged nun’s stooped but determined walk! There are good, suitably subtle performances across-the-board, but Emily Hamilton, in the small role of Anna, deserves special mention. She played every note EXACTLY RIGHT in the poignant scene where she learns of her unfortunate fate and how she will be required to support Mother Teresa’s work in the future. And the brief scene in which she later learns that Teresa was not offering her mere platitudes was one of my favorites in the picture! (It darn near made me “moisty.” OK, it did... but just a little.)
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My only negative observations have to do with the cinematography and musical score. I feel that the film should have imitated Mother Teresa’s life in its approach, by adhering strictly to the most simplistic or austere style. Instead, on a few occasions, we get some creative flourishes: dissolving images, artificial angles and “artistic” lighting. And in a couple of places, the music becomes a shade too dramatic or intrusive. These aspects of the film should have all been kept to the most basic level possible in accordance with the unadorned life that Mother Teresa espoused. But this is only a minor complaint on my part, and these things will not significantly undermine your viewing experience.
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Let’s face it, it’s really impossible to cover the scope and influence of the life of Mother Teresa in a single two-hour movie, but I feel that 'MOTHER TERESA' does about as fine a job as one could reasonably expect. If you want a good overview of her life and you want a lesson in what a beneficial difference one faithful and hard-working person filled with the Love of Christ can make in this world, then by all means, make it a point to see this film. And be prepared to be put to shame, like I was.
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“We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.” 
~ Mother Teresa
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Thursday, September 19, 2019

MUDDY Was CLEARLY King!

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MUDDY WATERS: HIS BEST 1956 - 1964
by Muddy Waters
released: 1997
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In moving to Chicago from the Mississippi Delta region in 1943, MUDDY WATERS (McKinley Morganfield) essentially remolded the musical language known as The Blues. Playing now in nightclubs, the acoustic rural sound gave way to a booming urban beat. As a writer once cleverly quipped: "By plugging in his guitar, Muddy Waters invented electricity."
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'HIS BEST 1956 - 1964' captures the explosive, impassioned sonic Blues that Muddy developed and which was such an influence on so many Bluesmen who emulated him in his wake. Muddy was to Chicago Blues what Elvis was to Rock 'N' Roll - in a word: KING! These tracks feature the Blues King being backed by some of the legendary names of the genre: WILLIE DIXON (bass), JIMMY ROGERS (guitar), BUDDY GUY (guitar), JAMES COTTON (harp), A.C. REED (sax), OTIS SPANN (piano), the underrated S.P. LEARY (drums), and perhaps the most revered Blues instrumentalist of his generation, the harp master, LITTLE WALTER.
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These songs cook, rock, menace, sneer (wink and grin). This is raw, foot-stompin' stuff, the REAL Blues, the genuine article. Get this, get Howlin' Wolf's Chess sides, and the Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson and you'll discover from where the thieves Jimmy Page and Robert Plant stole their first two albums!
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Blues masterpieces such as most of the tracks presented here (like the rollicking 'ALL ABOARD' to Muddy's signature roof-raising 'GOT MY MOJO WORKING') are so dynamic and contain such evocative imagery that one could build a movie around them. And wouldn't you know it? That's just what I did about 15 years ago. The Blues almost became an independent character in an unproduced screenplay I wrote:
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Flipping through her old vinyl records, the terminally geeky Billy Withers says to the hip, sassy, Jazz & Blues street-singer, Billie Clayton, "Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters? They sound like they're from the World Wrestling Federation."
She replies, "They're all great Bluesmen."
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Ah, but ain't it the truth?!
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And later in my screenplay, Muddy's song 'YOU CAN'T LOSE WHAT YOU AIN'T NEVER HAD' becomes the catalyst for the defining moment in my movie when Clayton refrains from murdering her unborn child.
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And yet my favorite track is 'THE SAME THING.' The lyrics punctuated by Spann's brief piano bursts, this moody, carnally-charged ballad shows how the Blues, in "proper" circles, came by the disparaging moniker, "the devil's music."
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WHAT MAKE MEN GO CRAZY WHEN A WOMAN WEAR HER DRESS SO TIGHT?
MUST BE THE SAME OL' THING THAT MAKES A TOMCAT FIGHT ALL NIGHT.
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WHY DO ALL OF THESE MEN TRY TO RUN A BIG-LEG WOMAN DOWN?
MUST BE THE SAME OL' THING THAT MAKES A BULLDOG HUG A HOUND.
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OH, THAT SAME THING!
TELL ME WHO'S TO BLAME?
THE WHOLE WORLD'S FIGHTIN' ABOUT THAT SAME THING.
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WHAT MAKE YOU FEEL SO GOOD WHEN YOUR BABY GET HER EVENING GOWN?
MUST BE THE SAME OL' THING THAT MADE A PREACHER LAY HIS BIBLE DOWN.
OH, THAT SAME THING!
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By all means, dive into MUDDY WATERS. Get 'HIS BEST 1956 - 1964' and see what kind of movie it inspires YOU to write. Or perhaps you'll just want to turn it up loud and let it rock you "all night long"; rock you like your "back ain't got no bone!"
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

IT'S STILL "MYSTERIOUS" TO ME!

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THE MYSTERIOUS BIBLE CODES
by Grant Jeffrey
copyright: 1998
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The Equidistant Letter Sequence (ELS) Codes are a fascinating subject and possibly one of Man's greatest "archaeological" finds. There appears to be much to learn yet, but this discovery cannot be dismissed.

Grant Jeffrey's 'THE MYSTERIOUS BIBLE CODES' is an interesting although flawed look at the ELS Codes, which he has touched upon in some of his earlier books. The cornerstone of this publication is chapters 6 & 7 which address the discovery of the Aramaic name for Jesus (Yeshua) encoded in Old Testament passages concerning the coming Messiah and Redeemer of Mankind. For example, amazingly, "JESUS IS MY NAME" is encoded in the "Suffering Servant" prophecy of Isaiah 53. It appears here and only here.
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Twice in the year 2000, I wrote to Mr. Jeffrey. I related how I was a volunteer for a Prison Outreach Program and sometimes utilized his book - making it available to inmates - but I needed clarification on a couple of flaws or typographical errors concerning ELS Codes that he claimed could also be found in some of the Greek New Testament passages.
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On page 171 (hardcover) he states that the Greek name for Jesus is located at a 5-letter skip interval in 1st John 5:13, but I was unable to find it in the Greek passage illustrated there. Also, on page 173 he states that the second smallest skip interval for "Jesus" is encoded every 8th letter in Matthew 24:30, which contradicts his later claim on page 176 that the second smallest skip interval for "Jesus" is encoded every 7th letter in John 21:17. These are mutually exclusive statements. I did include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with my queries, but I have yet to receive a reply. I know we call it "snail mail" for a reason, but this is ridiculous!
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Jeffrey delights in pointing out how the names of all the apostles and other personages close to Jesus can be found encoded in Isaiah's "Suffering Servant" passage. While it IS intriguing that "Judas" does NOT appear in this passage, Jeffrey neglects to inform his readers that these same names consist of such few letters that they also appear well over 1,000 times throughout the book of Isaiah!

Some of Jeffrey's books do contain valuable information and are worth reading. But because he tends to sensationalize and because most of his facts can be found in the books of other writers, it may be advantageous to search other sources first. In his book 'THE MILLENNIUM MELTDOWN' (1998), Jeffrey stated that the Y2K computer problem WOULD precipitate "a global crisis, the scope of which we have not experienced since World War II... this appointment with destiny cannot be postponed or avoided." THAT BOOK (which thankfully I bought for only an inflated 25 cents in 2002) damaged his credibility forever in MY BOOK!
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While I wholeheartedly recommend that you explore the ELS Bible Code topic, I suggest that you acquire [link> 'BIBLE CODE BOMBSHELL' by R. Edwin Sherman instead. Sherman's book is easily the best on the subject as of this date.
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Grant Jeffrey opportunistically cranks out nearly a book a year that is second-rate because it never includes an index. ('The Mysterious Bible Codes' is no exception.) Also, each book closes with a proselytizing chapter which - while he may feel it is his obligation to "The Great Commission" - I find grating. I feel that if the facts are persuasive, they will bring the open-minded to Christ without excessive cajoling.
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I read the Bible from Genesis through Revelation every year and still I find much of Jeffrey's contemporary Christian dogma unsupported by Scripture. I don't think he would appreciate that. But then I didn't appreciate my polite inquiries being ignored either. I guess Grant and I have now balanced our BOOKS (Galatians 6:7).
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

(Move Over, Georgia, I’ve Got...) LOUNGES ON MY MIND

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STARDUST 
by Willie Nelson
1978
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In 1989, Girlfriend and I decided that we wanted to find a nice little lounge that we could call our own – a quiet place that we could slip away to from time to time and enjoy an adult beverage. A place where everyone would know our names, but they would mostly just bring to our table the things we asked for and then leave us alone. So we began the quest one evening, and the first place I suggested we sample was the intimate cocktail lounge located at the rear of THE CREST HOUSE RESTAURANT on Washington Boulevard in Culver City. We went there, and we went to two other places that night. Over the next couple of weeks, we visited several other drinking establishments in the Los Angeles area, and when the alcoholic haze finally settled in our minds, we found that nothing could compare with the very first place we’d tried.
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So, THE CREST HOUSE lounge became our home away from home, and for years it was like an oasis of yesteryear in contemporary times. The quaint lounge featured a cozy little fireplace, nostalgic red booths, little twinkling Christmas lights year ‘round over the bar, a couple of televisions for the showing of Dodger games, and an ancient, reticent fixture at the end of the bar whom Girlfriend and I referred to as “Mr. Doom” because he reminded us of the old gaunt ghost who sometimes hitched a ride with us in our “Doom Buggy” on the HAUNTED MANSION ride at Disneyland.
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"Mr. Doom" dead center.
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And then there was that jukebox filled with great music from a variety of decades – most of it conducive to relaxation and gentle conversation about good times shared. Girlfriend and I gave that machine most of the exercise it got. (The geezers and geezerettes – God love ‘em – were forever complimenting us kiddies on our exquisite taste in music.)
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Our favorite selections were:
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Moonlight Serenade (Glenn Miller); Boogie Woogie (Tommy Dorsey); I Wish You Love & That Old Black Magic (Louis Prima with Keely Smith); Desperado (The Eagles). And when I punched G5 and G6 on that old jukebox (which I frequently did) we got BLUE SKIES and MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT by Willie Nelson. Both of those lovely songs are found on this collection.
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In 1978, Ol’ Willie Nelson departed from his hometown, “Countryville”, and with the great Booker T. Jones producing and arranging, he released STARDUST, an album of Pop standards. (If you’re not familiar with Booker’s old ‘60s band, BOOKER T. AND THE MG’S, you have missed out on some of the greatest dance music ever recorded. I mean, even Ol’ Stephen T. can dance to Booker T., and I’m as White as Wonder bread!)
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Now the initial reaction one might have at the thought of Willie’s nasal voice singing GEORGIA ON MY MIND is understandably, “What the--?!” That’s got to be bad, right? Does a bear crap in the woods? Does a dog put out a fire… hydrant? Does a ghost haunt the building where I work? Well, the answer to the above questions is “yes”... except for the first one.
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Believe it or not, somehow Willie’s schnozzy voice works perfectly with these mellifluous classics with their sparse but perfect instrumentation. (When Ol’ Waylon used to sing Willie’s part while performing their Country duets live and solo, he would hold his index finger up high for the entire audience to see, and then with great deliberation, bring it down to press one nostril closed and – voila! – Willie Nelson!) Well, fact is, Booker T. is a musical genius, and he knew exactly how to sculpt the ideal sonic form to compliment Willie’s “unique” vocal quality.
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Now, I’ve never cared for the song SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME – not by Willie, not by Frankie, not by no one – but to my ears, the rest of these songs are gentle, gorgeous, and romantic. ROMANTIC?! Yes, I said, “Romantic.” Somehow Booker T. made Willie sound romantic and that’s alchemy of the first order! You could play this album at low volume over a candlelight dinner with your Special One and it would almost work. I say “almost” only because most of the songs are steeped in a melancholic marinade. So, the album might be better suited for playing at low volume while enjoying a warm glass of robust red wine and reminiscing about beautifully serene evenings you spent sipping Old Fashioneds with old flames in old-fashioned lounges. Or calling to mind past barroom brawls you participated in with old Mr. Doom while you and he were still in your youth. (Hoo-Wee! He had a wicked left hook... for a dead man!)
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Friday, August 23, 2019

"AND STILL THOSE VOICES ARE CALLING FROM FAR AWAY..."*

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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIALAND
by Charles Phoenix
2004
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[*Lyric from the song, 'HOTEL CALIFORNIA' by The Eagles.]
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I acquired SOUTHERN CALIFORNIALAND by Charles Phoenix just over a week ago in a Christmas gift exchange game. The book is a true celebration of Southern California in its glorious, paradisiacal decades of 1940 through the 1970s. Charles Phoenix who oddly became obsessed with the old 35 mm Kodachrome slides taken by strangers in memorializing their family trips, gatherings, and everyday lives, shares about 150 of his favorites with us in this absolutely charming book. His love and enthusiasm for his subject (SoCal in its glory days) just oozes from every page. Like the author, I grew up in SoCalLand in the '60s & 70s, and so I share his fascination for the magic that it once held.
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Enchanting, dreamy, nostalgic, and a tad melancholic (because the enchantment and the dream has been reduced to nostalgia) are words that best describe this picture book. But "surprising" is another word that fits, because I was surprised by the wealth of information to be found in the brief text that accompanies each photograph. Even I - who has traversed so many of these locations - learned some interesting bits of trivia.
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For example: Did you know that when Vice President Richard Nixon cut the ribbon and became the Disneyland Monorail's first official passenger, unbeknownst to that famous rider, it was the first time the unique transportation train completed a trip without catching fire? Phoenix describes Walt Disney as being very nervous. Yeah, I suppose he was! Did you know that the Luer "Quality Meat" Rocket (a forerunner to the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile) was discovered in a Prescott, Arizona junkyard in 1997, "weathered, but restorable"? (And here I always thought that I was the only good thing to wrench free from the evil clutches of Prescott! I made good my escape in early '94, also "weathered, but restorable".)
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I loved perusing the lost details of places where I have traipsed: the famous Brown Derby restaurant and the Pan-Pacific Auditorium; White Front of Anaheim, one of the discount chain of stores fo' po' folks. (My Ma used to drag us to one as children in Orange County. I don't know how many the O.C. boasted of, but this might well be the same White Front.); the Pacific Ocean Park amusement park, which I guarded as a young Police Explorer during its demolition in the Winter of 1973-74; the L.A. International Airport Theme Building where I experienced my first Red Dog beer. The beer wasn't memorable, but the location was.
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Phoenix includes insightful and sometimes funny commentary. When he describes the cover photo (a white, 1955 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible parked near the corner of Walnut & Allen in Pasadena, with palm trees, an orange grove, and snow-capped Mt. Baldy in the background) as "a perfect Southern California shot", he's right on the money! When he writes of the 1954 Mineral Baths photo in Desert Hot Springs, "Hundreds of thousands of acres of beautiful undisturbed desert scenery and someone had to build a wall around this place and paint in [desert] scenery," it's genuinely funny.
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This book is a treasure trove for any pre-Hotel California SoCalLand lover. Where else are you going to find a photograph of a 1956 teenager with the perfect ducktail waiting to test Disneyland's Autopia track? Or a photo of President Eisenhower blowing his nose in Palm Springs? Or a photo of Lee and Katie Kellogg eating meatloaf sandwiches in 1955 Alhambra? This book is a vibrant, eye-popping gem of pop culture which I urge you not to buy.
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I'd rather you didn't purchase this fun Charles Phoenix book. Why? Because on page 144 we learn that SOUTHERN CALIFORNILAND was "Printed in China". Yes, this is the same China that embraces Communism, a failed economic/social system responsible for murdering approximately 100 million human beings worldwide, and torturing and starving many millions more. The same China that enforces its one-child family policy with forced abortions. The same China that got caught smuggling AK-47s into the U.S. to be sold to Los Angeles street gangs; threatened to nuke L.A. if the U.S. militarily defends Taiwan; kills its citizens who have the audacity to publicly request freedom; sells body parts of executed prisoners to medical facilities; enslaves political opponents and Christians for their faith, and puts them to work in forced labor camps, producing all imaginable types of goods, and printing books, all to be sold to Americans.
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Every time we purchase a Chinese-made product, we are feeding the human rights-abusing monster that has made no secret of its hatred for us - a monster that is increasing its military might at an astonishing rate and will someday overrun its neighbor, Taiwan, and declare war on the United States. Let's have a little foresight for once. Let's stop building our enemies. Let's boycott ALL Chinese products and sleep better at night. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIALAND is a nice book, but until it is being produced in a country that values human life, it's a book that we can LIVE WITHOUT! (Of course, if you're buying a used copy, this is not an issue.)
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Monday, August 19, 2019

MURPHY’S LAWS (The Spiritual Variety)

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SONGS OF GOD
by Joseph Murphy, D.D., PhD., LL.D., D.R.S.
1979
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It’s kind of funny how I came by SONGS OF GOD by Joseph Murphy, D.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D.R.S. (Man, that’s a lot of “letters” after his name, isn’t it? Is that supposed to add weight to what he has to say? Well, it certainly adds alphabet – no argument there! But then Moses, Elijah, King David, John The Baptist, Christ Jesus, and Saint John didn’t need any additional “letters” behind their names in order to get my attention.)
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A couple of years ago, I posted on Amazon.scum a review for [link> The Holy Bible From The Ancient Eastern Text, translated by George Lamsa. Sometime later, a woman living in the South if I recall correctly (Selma, Alabama?), posted her own review in which she contradicted a point I had made in my review. It was immediately apparent to me that she either misconstrued my meaning or else she didn’t have a real firm grasp on the interrelationship of the Old and New Testaments. I thought I would be “a funny guy” and explain it to her. So, I went to the library, found her listed in her local telephone directory, and made a long distance call:
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“Hello, this is Stephen T. McCarthy. Does that name ring a bell?”
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“Um. Kind of.”
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“Do you remember a review for The Holy Bible that you posted on Ammyland?”
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“OOOHHHHHhhhhh...”
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Well, I thought it was pretty hilarious, but she sounded a bit like a Southern Belle caught in the headlights. Anyway, we had a pleasant (and rather expensive) conversation; I explained my review’s meaning to her, and she made me promise to read one of her favorite books on spirituality: SONGS OF GOD by Joseph Murphy, D.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D.R.S. (I don’t know what all those letters stand for, other than the D.D. for “Deputy Dog”, of course. I realize it’s really “Dawg”, but I’m trying my best to keep this review very highbrow.) Anyhow, I always come through on my promises (even if their fulfillment sometimes takes years), and I recently finished my Southern friend’s recommendation, although she’s undoubtedly forgotten all about me and my promise... wherever she is.
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I had a mixed reaction to SONGS OF GOD. Overall, I would say it’s a worthwhile book that unquestionably contains some real insight into the deeper meanings of some of The Bible’s Psalms, and Murphy, D.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D.R.S. brings to light some of the great spiritual principles that are rarely recognized and activated by the minds of even very devoted students of God’s Word. These principles are classified as “New Thought”, which in varying degrees was promoted by the schools of Christian mysticism such as Christian Science and Unity. With time, New Thought underwent a kind of metamorphosis and emerged as the more occultic “New Age” teachings which enjoy such popularity today.
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While I do gingerly recommend an investigation into the New Thought system, I also strongly warn against its very dangerous cousin, the New Age movement, with its misplaced angel worship, channeled “bibles”, and deliberate seeking for and development of psychic “gifts.”
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Some of the positive aspects of SONGS OF GOD includes:
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* The recognition that there is only One Power... namely, “God.” (It is the dualism in Man’s mind that allows for the manifestation of error, i.e., “evil.”)
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* The Law Of Faith. (It is our faith in God that is the catalyst for the expression of His Love in our experience. Without our faith, half of the ingredients in the recipe is missing!)
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* The “Sin” of Fear. (Amazing! Murphy, D.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D.R.S. discovered Job’s “sin.” Many years ago, I too discerned this important lesson in the book of Job only through determination, diligent study, and prayer. I never knew that anyone else had found it.)
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* The Creative aspect of the mind. (God’s Word tells us that He created us in His Image, and He is a “Creator.” Is it any wonder then that His children have imaginative minds and such a capacity to bring into manifestation – or to “create” – the pattern that the mind dwells upon?)
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* On page 216, the author reveals his awareness of the ability to materialize and dematerialize that Jesus displayed. Something else that I also recognized by careful Bible study, but never heard acknowledged by another Scripture student... until now!)
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Some of the negative aspects of SONGS OF GOD include:
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* An irritating amount of repetition.
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* Too many long-winded, impromptu prayers composed by the author, when simple Bible verses would have as adequately and more economically conveyed the same principle.
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* Numerous carelessly written expressions bound to confuse spiritually immature seekers (i.e., neophyte metaphysicians) regrettably leading to the error of self-enthronement. (I don’t believe this was deliberate on the author’s part, but one must be exceedingly careful not to inadvertently mislead the student into even greater egoism. After all, that was the “original sin”, and what we are all hoping to unlearn.)
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* A few passages in which the author is simply in error (unenlightened) and in effect, spreading misinformation (e.g., His misunderstanding of the purpose behind early Christian martyrdom. Did Murphy D.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D.R.S., mean to imply that he was further along the spiritual path than were Saints Peter and Paul? Oh, come on! Likewise, his “explanations” for the pillars of cloud and fire that assisted the Israelites in their wanderings are utter nonsense!)
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* At times, the author almost seems to be concocting metaphysical dogmatism on the fly; that is, inventing preposterous symbols, and offering no evidence to support his wild reinterpretations. Examples: “Mother” in PS. 51:5 means “universal subjective mind”?
“Heathens” in PS. 98:2 have “no reference to other human beings”?
The “man” and “woman” in 1 COR. 11:7-8 are our conscious and subconscious minds respectively?
BONG!! "Wrong! But thanks for playing, Mr. Murphy, D.D., PhD., LL.D., D.R.S. As a consolation prize, Vanna Offwhite has a lovely briefcase for you to keep all your extra letters in.”
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I sincerely wish I could have given SONGS OF GOD a higher grade than I did because it DOES illustrate very nicely some of the higher Spiritual laws. But it also contains a pretty fair amount of passages that I find objectionable. I can recommend it, but also urge you to offer up a heartfelt and faithful prayer to Jesus for Spiritual insight and guidance before reading it. You’ll need elevated discernment to separate the wheat from the chaff.
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The writings of Murphy, D.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D.R.S. are HIGHLY reminiscent of the similar New Thought teachings of JOEL GOLDSMITH. Other than The Holy Bible itself, The Infinite Way books of Goldsmith (especially “A Parenthesis In Eternity”, “The Master Speaks”, and “The Art Of Meditation”) had a more profound influence on my Spiritual understanding than any other publications. Goldsmith teaches the same principles, but I feel his writing makes an even greater impact – his imagery and way with words being more powerful – and I would gingerly suggest that anyone determined to explore these “New Thought” mystical concepts peruse the aforementioned titles.
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But again, great caution and advance prayer to The Master (Savior, King, Christ Jesus) is urged, as Goldsmith was a 33rd degree Freemason. The “in-the-know” spiritual students realize that this should set alarms sounding, bells ringing, sirens blaring, red lights flashing, eyes closing and minds praying for protection and guidance. Although my eventual, rather in-depth investigation into Joel Goldsmith never turned up anything “shadowy” beyond his Masonic affiliation, when one plays with the Freemasons, one is dancing in the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar. And unless you’ve got the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you’re liable to get burned. Proceed... with caution.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy, S.A. with a Ph.D. in B.S., and an S.O.B. who’s S.O.L.
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Monday, August 12, 2019

MY, OH MY, WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY...

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SONG OF THE SOUTH
starring: James Baskett, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten
1946
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MY, OH MY, WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY... IT WILL BE WHEN THE DISNEY COMPANY GETS ITS HEAD OUT OF THE INKWELL AND RE-RELEASES SONG OF THE SOUTH. That day may be a long way off, however, because the shrieking unthinking have muted this SONG! And here in purified, sanitized, synthesized, homogenized, and anesthetized contemporary America, we must be protected from anything that might accidentally induce genuine contemplation and intelligent discussion. Heaven forbid this country should start thinking for Itself!
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SONG OF THE SOUTH is important for a couple of reasons: It was the first time live action was mixed with animation throughout an entire full-length motion picture. It also represented a high-water mark of artistic achievement in the context of storytelling and moralizing. SONG OF THE SOUTH is probably nothing less than the finest example of American folk art! But America - land of the free and home of the brave - isn't allowed to see it!
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I was very fortunate to find a copy of SONG OF THE SOUTH (in English with Japanese subtitles) over a decade ago, and have been watching it regularly since; it remains one of my Top 25 favorite films. I wish there were some way I could make a copy for everyone who desires one: I'd surely do it!
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The overall story is a little too sketchy, but JAMES BASKETT (Uncle Remus & the voice of Br'er Fox) gives one of the most engaging performances in motion picture history. His character is the true hero of the story. Only he and Miss Doshy (Lucile Watson) have a clue.
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So, where's the controversy? Well, 'SONG' takes place on a post-Civil War Southern plantation where the Blacks are working as sharecroppers. For the most part, everyone is happy, even singing when they work. Perhaps some feel that this whitewashes the slavery issue. And of course the Black characters speak in a grammatically butchered Southern dialect. That's historically accurate! After all, they were unjustly denied an education. But the language is far more tame than I have encountered in other old movies featuring Black characters, and in fact, no more outside of mainstream English than current ebonics. And that's the extent of SONG's controversy! OOOoooh! OOOoooh!
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It's the same small group of maroons who would protest SONG's release that have tried for years to get Twain's 'HUCKLEBERRY FINN' banned, never realizing that Chapter XVI of that book (in which the Divine spark in Finn's heart wrestles with the callousness of his society-indoctrinated conscience and wins) constitutes the single greatest anti-slavery statement ever recorded in a novel! SONG's humanity easily outweighs any of the marginal stereotyping it commits in conveying its time period.
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[Interestingly, Joel Chandler Harris (creator of the Uncle Remus stories) once wrote to Mark Twain and said of 'HUCKLEBERRY FINN', "It is the most original contribution that has yet been made to American literature." Later, he publicly wrote, "There is not in our fictive literature a more wholesome book than 'Huckleberry Finn.' It is history, it is romance, it is life. Here... we see people growing and living; we laugh at their humor, share their griefs; and... we are taught the lesson of honesty, justice and mercy."]
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The handcrafted animation (no computer graphics or live action tracing) is WONDERFUL! There is one sequence in which Uncle Remus, fishing with Br'er Frog, casts his animated line directly at the viewer; it disappears above the screen, and moments later the cork splashes into the stream and bobs in the viewer's face while the rest of the line softly descends into view, landing in the water. It's the most beautiful and imaginative 12-seconds of animation ever put on film.
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If the Disney Company realized how much money it would get by making SONG OF THE SOUTH available, it would accede to our wishes because MONEY is now what drives Disney. We must continue to dog Disney until it STOPS TREATING US LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN and re-releases SONG OF THE SOUTH.
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WE WANT OUR CARTOONS!
CARTOONS NOW!
CARTOONS NOW!
CARTOONS NOW!
WAAAAaaaaa.......
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Monday, May 27, 2019

HEY, AMERICA! “WHEN YOU GONNA WAKE UP?”

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SLOW TRAIN COMING
by Bob Dylan
released: 1979
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'GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY', the first song on BOB DYLAN’s 1979 Gospel offering, 'SLOW TRAIN COMING', begins with a metronome-like pounding on Pick Withers' drum. This single, regular beat gives the astute listener an impression of the hammering down of railroad ties. In other words, this is the slowly built but inexorably advancing train track that, once fully constructed, will make a Way for the arrival of a massive, powerful, and unstoppable Divine Force
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“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
(Isaiah 40:3; circa 740-701 B.C.)
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“Then they said to [John the Baptist] ... What do you say about yourself? He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the Way of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(John 1:23; circa 80–93 A.D.)
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Just as John the Baptist was commissioned to prepare the Way for the first incarnation of Jesus – who came as a meek lamb of Salvation – it is the duty of “Christians” to prepare the Way for His Second Coming, which will be anything but meek, and which will come so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and with such force that the many dark-hearted will find their dark hearts fainting with fright. 'SLOW TRAIN COMING' by Bob Dylan is both a warning and a celebration – a locomotive’s whistle.
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Unlike so much contemporary Christian music which seems to whine 'n' wheeze, this collection includes some real A-kickin’, toe-stompin’, and finger-pointing tracks. Buoyed by the unique musical contributions of Mark Knopfler and Pick Withers of Dire Straits, the Muscle Shoals Horns Section, and Barry Beckett with his fiery organ, the arrangements spell trouble for anyone who comes looking for another “Oh, La, La, La” Gospel album. And the lyrics clearly display the familiarity that Ol’ Bob had gained with 'The Word Of God'.
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I recall an interview Zimmy did with some music rag journalist not long after the release of 'SLOW TRAIN COMING' (it was probably Rolling Stoned magazine). The writer asked Bob what his favorite part of The Bible was and he answered “Leviticus.” The journalist dutifully recorded it, never realizing that Bob was obviously pulling the old dog’s leg. But then Rolling Stoned writers have undoubtedly spent more time in the pages of the Communist Manifesto than they have in 'The Word Of God'. (I've always loved Dylan's his smart-aleck nature. Gotta love them Mensa-donkeys.)
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'SLOW TRAIN COMING' is not without its weaknesses: 'I BELIEVE IN YOU' has probably the most atrocious singing I have ever heard from a professional singer. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Bob was deliberately making a mockery of the song. The Reggae-influenced 'MAN GAVE NAMES TO ALL THE ANIMALS' is too long a piece to go without any musical break or tempo change. And the lyrics are overworked and sometimes too downright silly (“Great big furry back and furry hair”?!) to make the surprise payoff at the end worth the wait. And the slow closer, 'WHEN HE RETURNS', despite some heartfelt lyrics, kind of peters out (like Saint Peter at the trial of Jesus) on what is otherwise a really good record.
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'GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY'; 'PRECIOUS ANGEL'; and 'DO RIGHT TO ME, BABY' are all solid, but 'SLOW TRAIN'; 'GONNA CHANGE MY WAY OF THINKING'; and 'WHEN YOU GONNA WAKE UP?' all kick some serious heathen a$$! These are “Play-em-Loud-And-Disturb-The-Devil” cuts!
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And Ol’ Zimmy really knew the score:
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“Sister, lemme tell you about a vision I saw.
You were drawing water for your husband, you were suffering under the law.
You were telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammad in the same breath.
You never one time mentioned the Man who came and died a criminal’s death.”
(~ from 'Precious Angel')
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“In the home of the brave, Jefferson’s turnin’ over in his grave ...
But the enemy I see wears a cloak of decency.”
(~ from 'Slow Train')
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"God don’t make no promises that He don’t keep.
You got some big dreams, baby, but in order to dream you gotta still be asleep. ...
"Counterfeit philosophies have polluted all your thoughts.
Karl Marx has got ya by the throat, Henry Kissinger’s got you tied up in knots. ...
"You got unrighteous doctors dealing drugs that’ll never cure your ills.
When you gonna wake up? 
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"Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools,
You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules. 
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"Do you ever wonder just what God requires?
You think He’s an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires.”
(~ from 'When You Gonna Wake Up?')
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“Jesus said, Be ready,
For you know not the hour in which I come.
Jesus said, Be ready,
For you know not the hour in which I come.
He said, He who is not for Me is against me.
Just so you know where He’s coming from.”
(~ from 'Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking')
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Hey, America, it’s time to turn off your boob tube and study 'The Holy Book', because there’s a Train coming!
It may seem slow,
but it IS coming,
and sooner than you know.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

NUN TOO GOOD

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SISTER ACT
starring Whoopi Goldberg
1992
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This past November, I was in Reno, Nevada. Mrs. Van Owen, the shuttle driver who picked me up at the airport (women are always picking me up) pointed out the Saint Thomas Aquinas Cathedral as she was pulling into my hotel's parking lot, and she said, "That's the church they used in the movie SISTER ACT." Had it been ANY other church, I would have thought: Great, now how much do the video poker machines pay out on four deuces here?
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But it just so happens that when I was in Reno on August 12, 2001, Jesus sent me to the Saint Thomas Aquinas Cathedral (although I'm not Catholic) where I was the only White person to be found in the pews, and where I observed a Catholic mass delivered entirely in Spanish. (The only Spanish I know is "Si", "No", and some words that Ricky Garcia called me in junior high school.) I kept thinking: Nice music, Lord, but why did You send me here? It wasn't until the mass ended, and I exited the church, that He revealed His purpose: On the steps of that very cathedral, Jesus, with a "miraclette", answered an important and troubling question that I'd been praying about for an entire month. (That's a story for another review.) So when my shuttle driver mentioned that particular church being used in the movie SISTER ACT, I determined to rent the 1992, WHOOPI GOLDBERG vehicle upon my return to Airheadzona. I'm back and I did.
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Now, I grew tired of Goldberg's sassy, mono-note shtick a long time ago ("You want me to do WHAT?! Uh-uh. You got the WRONG woman, fool!"), so I wasn't expecting much, and my expectations were met but not exceeded. I knew this thing was going to be nun too good when I saw Harvey Keitel mentioned in the opening credits. (I have a rule of thumb: "Avoid EVERYTHING with Harvey Keitel in it." But since there's an exception to almost every rule, I'll add, "except maybe TAXI DRIVER.")
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SISTER ACT's bad habits started immediately: It opens with a scene at "Saint Anne's Academy in 1968" (with the Saint Thomas Aquinas Cathedral playing the part of Saint Anne's Academy in one brief shot. Boo! I rented THIS movie for THAT?) Here we find Deloris Van Cartier (later played by Goldberg) as a youngster being asked by a nun to name the apostles. She gives a "Fabulous" (but incorrect) answer. Cut to Van Cartier many years later performing as the leader in a girl group retro act at a Reno lounge, and showing great unhappiness at being ignored by the nearby boozers and gamblers. Is it really unusual for free entertainment on a casino floor to go scarcely noticed? Would this REALLY upset a longtime lounge singer? Wouldn't she be used to the lack of attention while on stage by now? It would be the norm; just another day, just another paycheck. We've got nonsense right out of the chute, I thought.
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The two-bit Reno nightclub singer, Van Cartier, accidentally witnesses her boyfriend, Vince LaRocca, orchestrate a young man's murder. (HARVEY KEITEL plays the evidently sight-challenged mobster. He couldn't find a more attractive two-bit nightclub singer in all of Reno? Please!) Now Van Cartier is (a soon-to-be nun) on the run.
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Until LaRocca's murder charge comes up for trial, Lieutenant Eddie Souther (BILL NUNN, who must have gotten the part based only on his last name) places Van Cartier in a convent under the Witness Protection Program. The hulking Nunn is horribly miscast and gives a downright embarrassing performance as a lawman. Trying to pass this guy off as a street-hardened, high-ranking law enforcement officer is like trying to pass off Garfield the cat as a police dog! Nunn plays most scenes with this goofy "oh-you-kid" grin. (Sit down, Lieutentant, before you hurt yourself!)
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Meanwhile, gangster LaRocca - awaiting his murder trial, yet incredibly free to roam the city (What? Did he have a "Get Out Of Jail" card tucked into his "violin case"?) - and his two un-intimidating, geriatric hitmen, are trying to locate Van Cartier to enunciate with gunfire their displeasure at her willingness to testify.
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In the convent, Van Cartier's life is adhering to the typical Hollywood formula - "the outcast finds her niche and makes good" paint-by-numbers kit. You know the gig! And we're treated to all the usual: Tough and/or cool street people in ridiculously exaggerated "tough and/or cool street people" costumes (how about just T-shirts and jeans, folks? You know, like REAL people on the street wear?); the gag where three guys simultaneously rush through a small opening and momentarily get stuck a la The Three Stooges (Har!-Har!-Har!); and of course, the obligatory and ubiquitous bit where the guys take it in the "family jewels" while the heroine makes good her escape. (The nutcracker shtick ceased to be fresh and funny about 1976, but they're still feeding it to us regularly because, you know, there's little genuine writing talent in Tinsel Town. Or haven't you noticed?)
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There are about 101 additional problems with this act, Sisters and Brothers, but there's no point in listing them all; it's not like you're going to pay attention to anything I say anyway. (The nuns fly to Reno to rescue Van Cartier because... uhm... there was no way to telephone Reno Law Enforcement? That's just a guess on my part. "Ain't nun of ya in the habit of keeping any spare change around, pray tell?")
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I did enjoy the clever musical arrangements, and Goldberg's prayer before supper at the convent was appropriately inappropriate. But I loved Mary Wickes in the minor role of Sister Mary Lazarus, the ancient but tough-as-General MacArthur nun. I thought she had the best lines in the movie. ("I liked my convent in Vancouver, out in the woods. It wasn't all modern like some of these newfangled convents. We didn't have electricity - cold water, bare feet - THOSE were nuns!... it was hell on earth. I loved it! This place is a Hilton.") You go, Sister! Discipline those Pillsbury Dough Boy-soft troops!
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Still, I can think of better uses for my time than watching SISTER ACT. (Sleeping, eating, reading, and writing a negative review of SISTER ACT all come immediately to mind.) Hey, I love a fun, stupid comedy (e.g., 'The Pink Panther Strikes Again' or 'Monty Python And The Holy Grail'), but because it actually asks us to accept as plausible its preposterous scenario, SISTER ACT is dumber than a lobotomized moron with paralyzed vocal cords. Making it, of course, the ideal movie for post-literate America. Whoopi!!
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(I hear what you're thinking: Why is he always knocking America? But I'm not! I'm always criticizing America, and there's a difference: 2 more syllables and 3 more letters!)
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Monday, May 20, 2019

SOME OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES “B” WESTERNS

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THE ROY ROGERS COLLECTION
Roy Rogers DVD Boxed Set
released: 2006
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A lot of folks don’t know that ROY ROGERS (Leonard Slye; 1911-1998) was born at approximately where 2nd base in Cincinnati’s old Riverfront Stadium would eventually be located. How American is that? It’s a wonder he didn’t emerge from the womb draped in The Stars And Stripes, holding aloft an apple pie still hot from “the oven” and whistling ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ (or ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’). Every time Pete Rose slid into 2nd base, ol’ Roy probably thought that the Reds had scored a run because Charlie Hustle was safe at “home.”
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Roy Rogers was one of my great heroes when I was a kid, and I can still recall the pride with which I wore my bright yellow raincoat with the black pictures printed on it of Roy (“King Of The Cowboys”), Trigger (“The Smartest Horse In The Movies"), and Dale Evans (“The Queen Of The West”). I even had a little schoolboy crush on Roy’s wife, Dale.
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These old “B” Westerns starring Roy were so wholesome and exuded such innocence that I can’t help saddling up from time to time with my old hero and revisiting a simpler, more pleasant bygone time that won’t be riding our way again. Heaven? Well, it can’t be much better than lounging around late on a Saturday morning in cotton flannel jamas, with hot coffee, and watching Roy round up rustlers. “Look out behind that rock, Roy!” Too late. Oh well, Roy will ultimately win the fight (even if he does consistently “fall” for that leg sweep trick) because the good guys and bad guys are always clearly delineated in “B” Westerns and the good guys always win. And what’s wrong wit dat?
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In 1990, my girlfriend and I self-published "CALAMITY CAT'S AND BLACK COLE KID'S UNCOMPLICATED GUIDE TO WESTERN MOVIES FOR THE SIMPLE-MINDED COWPERSON." It’s quite a collector’s item now; I’ve even heard of some copies selling for as much as ten cents! Calamity Cat and I saw every Western you can think of (and plenty that you can’t). On September 7, 1990, we drove out to the Roy Rogers Museum in Victorville, California, and since The Good Lord had taken a liking to us, we actually met Roy and Dale. I recognized that distinctive “double rolled” crown of his cowboy hat as he drove past in a van. “It’s him!” I yelled. “Cut him off at the pass!”, Calamity demanded. I was really going to attempt to box him into the parking lot with my car (Calamity and I were both temporarily insane), but he pulled over of his own volition.
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When Roy said he no longer signed autographs, Calamity and I were crushed. He added, “But we’ll be happy to have our picture taken with you.” Yeah, sure. We watched Roy work the crowd for awhile and then as someone started to hustle him off, he stopped and said, “Wait! You two wanted a picture, didn’t you?” We couldn’t believe it! He and Dale posed with us, and Roy insisted that a second shot be taken just in case the first one didn't turn out well. (I later tried to feed Trigger a handful of oats but he refused to take a bite as he was already stuffed.) We were so eager to see the pictures that Calamity and I went to a one-hour photo joint in Victorville and waited while the film was processed.
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Roy Rogers was probably the most famous of the old “singing cowboys”, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the “singing” part was just a movie production gimmick. Roy was a founding member of the renowned and influential Country-Western group THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS, and he had a d*mn fine voice and really knew how to swing. There was nothing “B” about Roy’s vocals! No, sir – he was the real McCoy when it came to music. And by all accounts, one of the nicest gentlemen in the history of Hollywood. (But then there’s never been a lot of competition in Tinsel Town in that department.)
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Although the audio/visual quality of some of these old prints is pretty ragged at times, you’re getting 20 of Roy’s classic Westerns (2 in Trucolor – which is something of a small fib) for a dern low price. Will you find a better deal anywhere? “Neigh.” Included is 1944's historic “COWBOY AND THE SENORITA” (the first time Roy and Dale appeared in a film together) and perennial favorites of the Roy Rogers fan clubs, “KING OF THE COWBOYS”, “ROBIN HOOD OF THE PECOS”, and “MY PAL TRIGGER” which chronicles the birth of Roy’s famous palomino.
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For this little wrangler, the inclusion of my three favorite R.R. pictures alone made this DVD worth the price:
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“HELDORADO” has Nevada Ranger Roy tracking counterfeiters in Las Vegas. It includes the quintessential old coot sidekick, GABBY HAYES (“Pershnickety females!”); the rubber-faced pre-Jim Carrey Jim Carrey, PAT BRADY, who sings the wonderfully comic “I’m A High-Strung Lad”; Roy’s great line when he rescues Dale from a locked refrigerator (I won’t spoil it); and concludes with an astounding shot of what downtown Las Vegas looked like in 1946!
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“BELLS OF SAN ANGELO” (1942, in Trucolor) has some great songs (including THE SONS OF THE PIONEERS doing “Lazy Day” and Brady’s manic antics over “Hot Lead.”)
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And I suppose my favorite is “UNDER CALIFORNIA STARS” (1948, in Trucolor) which in a sense is an archetypal “B” Western. It commemorated Roy’s 10th anniversary in motion pictures and he and THE SONS revisited “Dust”, the featured song in Roy’s very first movie. The story revolves around the kidnapping of Trigger, a lame little boy, Ted, and his scruffy ragamuffin dog named... what else?... “Tramp”. At one point, Trigger stomps on the face of a prostrated “inflatable” villain (HOO!-HOO!-HOO! Watch in slow motion for capital “B”, “B”ad special effect laughter) and this movie contains perhaps the meanest, most downright ornery thing Roy ever uttered on the silver screen... brace yourself now: “IT’S TOO BAD A KID LIKE TED HAD TO GET HIMSELF MIXED UP WITH A NO GOOD GUY LIKE YOU!” But don’t worry, Roy will eventually get Trigger back and get the best doctor in the country to heal Ted’s leg. Everything’s Gonna “B” OK (EGBOK).
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Unfortunately, the Mill Creek Entertainment company felt it necessary to display their logo in the bottom right corner of the screen every so often, but really, what does that matter? I mean, you’re viewing movies in which the good guys chase the bad guys on horseback around the very same rock formations from one movie to the next (watch them boulders, some of them are like recurring characters!)
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Nevertheless, mind your tongue around me! As I wrote in the out-of-print Western movie guide that Calamity Cat and I created: “Let me spell it out for you... I don’t give an armadillo’s tail in Texas what you think of his movies, but you best not say not nice things about MY Mr. Rogers when I’m around, lest your butt and my metal-tipped cowboy boots get acquainted!”
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Well, ‘Happy Trails To You’ until I review again.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Monday, March 25, 2019

SASS 'N' ATTITUDE & BANDAGED PAIN

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[This review originally appeared at BigBitch.com on 2006, May 24.] 
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RICKIE LEE JONES
by Rickie Lee Jones
released: 1979
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In 1979, Rickie Lee Jones released what was probably the most fully-realized and self-assured debut album by any singer of any genre at any time. No other vocalist ever broke from the starting gate with this much aplomb, looseness and "If you don't like it, you can hit the road, Jack" attitude. In a sense, this was both a blessing and a curse: she made it obvious immediately that she was a prodigiously talented songwriter who put her songs over with a finely-tuned, stylistic sauciness and a broken-hearted sincerity. But at the same time, she set the bar so high with her self-titled 'RICKIE LEE JONES' that subsequent disappointment was almost inevitable.
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It was a different world at the tail end of the '70s: originality was still a desirable trait in new artists being developed (unlike the current situation where the new bands and performers seem like nothing more nor less than Xerox copies of last year's hottest model), and I was a 20-year-old looking squarely at a future full of pristine promise (unaware that the best I'd ever do is write semi-appreciated reviews for a then unimaginable Internet shopping site).
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When Rickie Lee Jones released her second collection, 'PIRATES', I initially thought it eclipsed her brilliant debut (I used to sniff Amyl Nitrite while tripping out over Steve Gadd's quirky drumming on the track, 'We Belong Together'), but in hindsight, I realize that the further she went with sonic exploration into highly personal expression, the further she drifted from really making that human connection with her listeners over a shared emotional understanding.
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But on 'RICKIE LEE JONES', with its Jazzy arrangements and stellar musicianship, her poetry was conveyed through exaggerated (and perhaps just a trace too-mannered), flouncy, bohemian sass 'n' attitude upbeat numbers, or ultra-sensitive, lost 'n' lonely ballads of bandaged pain that strike right at the heart.
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In the SASS 'N' ATTITUDE department there's...
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NIGHT TRAIN:
"Swing low, Saint Cadillac / Tearin' down the alley" 
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YOUNG BLOOD:
"But she ain't running / She's walking a little slow / And she ain't crying / She's just singin' a little low / They say this city will make you dirty but you look alright / You feel real pretty when he's holding you tight / City will make you mean but that's the makeup on your face / Love will wash you clean in the night's disgrace"
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DANNY'S ALL-STAR JOINT:
"You can't break the rules until you know how to play the game / But if you just want to have a little fun / You can mention my name" 
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WEASEL AND THE WHITE BOYS COOL:
"You dancin' in the welfare line, Sal / Actin' like some jerk-off fool / When we could lay out eatin' peaches on the beaches / A weasel in a White boys cool" 
(And I can personally recall a time when I did eat a peach on Venice Beach- the superfunky L.A. hotspot where Rickie first developed these songs in the beer bars and bistros along the boardwalk while dogs went airborne over the sand to snag Frisbees in flight and the carnival of human wackiness paraded under the California sun.)
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But even in many of Rickie's thumpin', bumpin', hip-grindin' upbeat numbers, a trace of her melancholy muse can be found: Consider this line from the aforementioned YOUNG BLOOD:

"Keep a third eye watching behind you / You never know when you're making a memory / They will wish they were here together again, someday." 
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You won't feel the full impact of that sentiment until you are in your mid-forties, but you'll really understand it then.
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In the BANDAGED PAIN department there's...
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ON SATURDAY AFTERNOONS IN 1963:
"The most as you'll ever go / Is back where you used to know / If grownups could laugh this slow"
(If you can't detect two or three worlds in that lyric, then you'd better just stick with the crude pseudo-machismo of your Eminem and Insane Clown Posse.)
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THE LAST CHANCE TEXACO:
"There was this block-busted blonde / He loved her free parts and labor / But she broke down and died / And threw all the rods he gave her / But this one ain't fuel-injected / Her plug's disconnected / She gets scared and she stalls / She just needs a man, that's all"
(This song contains the greatest automotive imagery ever penned. Too bad for you, Springsteen!)
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COOLSVILLE:
"I and Bragger and Junior Lee / That's the way we always thought it would be / In the Winston lips of September / How we met / Decked out like aces / We'd beat anybody's bet / Cuz we was Coolsville"
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COMPANY:
"I'll see you in another life now, baby / I'll free you in my dreams / But when I reach across the galaxy / I will miss your company" 
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Me 'n' the boys were cruisin' the 405 freeway on our way to see Rickie Lee Jones perform at The Universal Amphitheater in 1983. We were all singin' in Tiburon (our permanently topless, 1963 Cadillac), when I realized that I had forgotten the glasses I'd recently begun wearing at night to compensate for my nearsightedness. Rickie was in fine vocal form that night, but she appeared to me like just a greyish, blurry form on the stage. While goin' home that evening, all the boys could talk about was how she had performed braless in a sheer, see-through blouse. I never did determine whether they were serious or just teasing the myopic maroon in the backseat.
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If you want to hear some authentic art from the 1970s, some street-smart, toe-tappin' jive-rock and moving poetry that you can hum along with, then let 'RICKIE LEE JONES' keep you COMPANY. In the song AFTER HOURS (Twelve Bars Past Goodnight), Rickie sings, "Say goodnight, America / The world still loves a dreamer." And here in 2006, I'm still dreaming that someday I'll find my misplaced glasses and then SEE if I can write something more worthwhile than a bunch of semi-appreciated product reviews for an Internet shopping site. Wish me luck, America.
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIG-- er... BLASPHEMY

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LIVES OF THE MASTER: The Rest Of The Jesus Story
by Glenn Sanderfur
published: 1988
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Let's be clear about two things right from the start:
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1) By REINCARNATION we mean the concept that a soul might activate more than one human body at different times. This is commonly confused with SOUL TRANSMIGRATION which theorizes that souls can inhabit the bodies of dogs, cats, and other animals, and even ostensibly inanimate objects such as rocks and raindrops. There is much evidence to support the former belief and not a shred of evidence to support the latter.
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2) Despite the vehement denouncing of it by contemporary Christian theologians, REINCARNATION is a Biblically-sound belief that is prevalent throughout both Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible. There are a great many Bible verses that allude to reincarnation, and some Bible passages even remain unintelligible until the moment reincarnation is applied to them.
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The idea that Jesus Himself may have incarnated multiple times will seem a greater blasphemy to most Christians than reincarnation in general. And although I don't personally take a hard and fast position on this, I do lean heavily toward it. The idea seems to be implied in several Biblical passages. For instance: "Though He (Jesus) was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." (Hebrews 5:8) This seems to hint at earlier lifetimes in which The Son suffered as a result of disobedience and from those sufferings He learned obedience. Based on what we learn of Jesus from The Bible, one could accurately say that Jesus suffered as a result of His obedience to God, but it would NOT be correct to say that He learned obedience by suffering, because from His earliest Childhood we see Him being obedient to God's Will. ("Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" --Luke 2:49) At no point was He disobedient. And so Hebrews 5:8 seems to imply AT LEAST one earlier lifetime for Jesus.
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It's hard not to appreciate the humility and simplicity of Glenn Sanderfur's writing in 'LIVES OF THE MASTER' and the research that he shares. The book makes compelling arguments and the sheer amount of evidence that Sanderfur presents will surprise a great many readers. There is more than ample food for thought in these pages. But there is also a downside:
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For many people the reincarnation concept becomes a stumbling block. Reincarnation is the patience of God in action (as I like to refer to it) and like all Divine Laws, the system works whether one is aware of its existence or not. Reincarnation is sometimes turned into a false idol by students who make too much of it and lose sight of the fact that what one does with their present circumstances is far more important than learning how they arrived at their present circumstances. Reincarnation can be very helpful, but it can also be misunderstood and misapplied, becoming detrimental to spiritually immature individuals.
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Much of the information in 'LIVES OF THE MASTER' is derived from pseudepigraphic writings. My limited study of the pseudepigrapha leads me to believe that those texts were justifiably not canonized. Another source of information is the Edgar Cayce readings which have proven to be both accurate and (often) inaccurate.
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I was once so dedicated to the Cayce readings that I even visited Edgar Cayce's hometown and gravesite in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. But decades of study led me to the conclusion that the readings sometimes originated from highly "questionable" sources. One reading actually admits this! (*See my review for 'The Edgar Cayce Companion' by Ernest Frejer, titled, 'Danger! You Are Skating On Thin Ice', posted at Amazon.com on 2004, July 25th.)
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In a few chapters, Sanderfur quotes Manly Hall as an authority. Manly Hall was a prolific Masonic writer and, like other "adepts" in the Masonic Order, was a luciferian.
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"When the Mason learns that the key to the warrior on the block is the proper application of the dynamo of living power, he has learned the mystery of his craft. The seething energies of Lucifer are in his hands", Manly wrote in 'Lost Keys Of Freemasonry'.
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In his book 'Twelve World Teachers', which is quoted from several times in 'Lives Of The Master', Hall doubts the crucifixion of Jesus and states that, "in a sense the Last Supper concluded the ministry". This exhibits such a woefully inadequate understanding of (if not a deliberate deception about) the Messianic mission of Jesus, that quoting ANY passages from Hall's book casts Sanderfur's book in a very bad light! And whereas contemporary Christianity suffers from nearsightedness and a rigid, confining theology, the New Age movement is dangerously occultic at best, and downright luciferian at worst. For this reason, I recommend Glenn Sanderfur's 'LIVES OF THE MASTER', but I do so very, very cautiously.
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This book may be helpful to you "if you are willing to receive it" and have "ears to hear". But it could also be a hindrance to your Spiritual development and lead you down a very dark path. Honestly, I strongly suggest that you pray about it. Too often I have used my "reasoning" ability to make decisions and later regretted them. But whenever I have gone to The Father or His Son, Yeshua, with a question, and then waited patiently for the answer, I have NEVER been led astray. Should you read 'LIVES OF THE MASTER'? Don't ask me. Ask the ONE who knows!
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~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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