Thursday, July 13, 2006


Viva Italia

It has always amazed me that a population that can stay awake during a baseball game claims to find soccer and ice hockey boring. The problem seems to be that these sports require you to watch all the time, not just during intermittent set pieces.

During the World Cup football tournament (or Copa Mundial, as it was called on the only stations that carried all the games live) readers where I live were subjected to the usual clueless and idiotic commentary in the newspapers. I don't know if local columnists in the daily newspapers of Albuquerque, New Mexico, can be described as "mainstream American media." I mean, just geographically they're already pretty far away from the main flow of opinion. Maybe informed opinion here is as far out-of-date as the fashions New Mexicans wear. I can only hope.

A columnist called Jim Belshaw, who apparently makes a living being an even bigger idiot on paper than his fans are in real life, promised to watch the games while reading a book. His reasoning? Since they show instant replays of all the key moments, it is easier to listen for the crowd and announcer getting excited and then watch what they are so thrilled about in the replay. By this logic, it would be a waste of time to watch any sporting event at all when you can just catch the highlights on the ten o'clock news.

Then there is the moron who calls himself "The Linz." (Please let that appellation be tongue-in- cheek.) This guy deigns to recognize soccer as maybe being as interesting to watch as the local college basketball league. Athleticism, team spirit and national loyalty are beside the point. Having just realized that world class football involves different teams, athletes and coaches following markedly different styles of play, he notices that some teams seem to be able to partially manipulate the decisions of referees. In his eyes this makes the World Cup competition almost as interesting as a home basketball game.

Here's some news for the babblers and scribblers of the United States media circus. The game the rest of the world calls football doesn't need you. Recently I saw a British actor on television talking about the various degrees of athleticism required in different sports. Referring to the players on the various national football teams, he commented "Those guys have to be in great shape."

Leno asked, "Do you watch American football?"

The actor looked a little embarrassed. "Well, I guess they're in good shape, too. They seem to stop all the time."

Saturday, July 08, 2006


choose your words carefully

I just read something that bugged me. I'll get back to the seven deadly sins later. Lately I've been kind of busy practicing them.

Bill Moyers has a new show coming out. That's not particularly newsworthy (although I'll probably watch it) but it is the occasion for me to complain. Writing for the Associated Press, someone named Frazier Moore commends Moyers for allegedly bridging the gap "between absolutists taking their isolated refuge in the silos of spiritualism and secularism."

Let's leave aside the question of whether an interviewer with Moyers' solid history of defending secularism is even capable of bridging such a gap. My problem is with Frazier Moore's choice of the word "spiritualism" for the worldview of the God camp. Does he mean "spirituality"? If so, why doesn't he say so?

According to my computer's Babylon translator (English to English) spiritualism is a "belief in the existence of spirits and the ability to establish contact with the dead through a medium" or a "philosophical viewpoint maintaining that spirit is the prime element of reality." Wikipedia goes on to tell me that "Spiritualism is a religious movement, prominent from the 1840s to the 1920s, found primarily in English-speaking countries. The movement's distinguishing feature is the belief that the spirits of the dead can be contacted by adepts. These spirits are believed to lie on a higher spiritual plane than humans, and are therefore capable of providing guidance in both worldly and spiritual matters."

Babylon says spirituality is the "quality of being spiritual; involvement in spiritual matters; spiritual aspect of a person." In Wikipedia, "Spirituality is, in a narrow sense, a concern with matters of the spirit. The spiritual, concerning as it does eternal verities regarding Man's ultimate nature, is often contrasted with the temporal or the worldly. It may include belief in supernatural powers, as in religion, but the emphasis is on personal experience. It may be an expression for life perceived as higher, more complex or more integrated with one's worldview, as contrasted with the merely sensual."

I realize this guy is only a television critic. From what I've seen before, he's a pretty good television critic. As an example, I seem to recall he called "Friends" the most overrated sitcom of all time. That's good criticism. The problem is, as a media critic he has to use the tools of his trade. The main tool of any writer's trade is the English language.

Especially when talking about how people with different worldviews have trouble communicating, it's important to, well, communicate. I just don't see much dialogue being advanced between those to whom religion and spirituality are key elements of their discourse and the mainstream media, if the mainstreamers don't even know the difference between religion and spiritualism.

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