Archive for May 2020

The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 11: Touched By an Alien (2001)   4 comments

Above:  The Alien Mercenary

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Touched By an Alien

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired January 4, 2002

Production Number = 5009-01-113

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Anna Maria Horsford as Jolene Freewald

Tucker Smallwood as Alonso Freewald

Duane Daniels as Smiley

Behind the Camera

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Sanford Bookstaver

Above:  Smiley

Brief Summary

One night, Donald Stern meets with Smiley, a mysterious figure wearing a fedora.  The publisher pays Smiley with a Tasmanian Tiger Snake.  Smiley warns Donald that something really bad, that somebody needs to stop, will arrive that night.  Donald knows what the dangerous something–someone, rather, is.  Off-screen, sayonara, snake.

An alien mercenary, or, as Donald describes it, a Sexually-Transmitted Assassin (STA) from the Orion constellation, arrives in a pod disguised as a meteorite that crashes into a strip club, Racks ‘N’ Rears.  Much of the episode consists of Wes, Tucker, and Grace pursuing the parasite assassin, a piece of gelatinous goo that dies when exposed to the atmosphere.  The STA has the ability to arouse anyone.  After the STA has transferred from one host to another, it destroys the body of the former host.

Wes Freewald’s “parental units” (a reference to the Coneheads) visit him in the office.  They are proud of him; they collect all the photographs he takes.  They claim to be in town for a Tom Jones concert.

Jessie Vance, the second host, drives to the offices of the World Chronicle.  He injures Donald Stern outside the building.  The publisher spends much of the rest of the episode recuperating in an alien biomorphic healing sanctuary located in the archives.  He is the target of the alien STA, supposedly because of a three-year-old published article about an alien royal family.  (Yet Donald Stern never published that article.)

Jessie Vance, possessed, drives less than a mile away, to the Grant Hotel, where the eighth floor is the site of the World Swingers Convention.  Most of the swingers are old and unattractive. The STA changes hosts twice, ending up inside Grace.  Grace resists arousal as best she can, but the STA overpowers her will.  Wes discovers, to his horror, that his parents are in town for the World Swingers Convention, not a Tom Jones concert.

Grace, possessed, returns to the archives of the World Chronicle and tries to seduce Sal.  The pig-boy is one of two individuals who can open the alien healing sanctuary; the other is Donald Stern.  The publisher has left the healing sanctuary, however.  He traps Grace in it.  Grace, possessed, attacks Stern by breaking glass and grabbing his throat.  Tucker and Wes arrive in time to rescue their boss.  Then Sal begins the procedure of removing the host from Grace.  The STA dies.  Grace lives.

Wes and his parents reestablish their peace.

Donald meats with Smiley again.  The publisher pays Smiley with a kitten.  Stern also asks that Smiley tell his contacts “that Donald Stern is packing heat” and is “not afraid to use it.”  Smiley agrees.  Smiley tells Donald, “Your’re a wonderful human being.”  The publisher replies, “I’d say the same for you, if you were.”  Off-screen, sayonara, kitty.

Above:  The Arrival of the Alien Pod

Character Beats

Tucker is still dating Kristen Martin.

Grace has not dated for eight weeks.

Sal the Pig-Boy is also desperate.  He reminds Grace that he may be half-pig, but that he is also half-man.  Grace retorts, “That’s about a fourth of what I need.”

In 1980, Wes Freewald’s parents took him to see The Empire Strikes Back nine times.  Grace Hall, hearing of this, asks if they received hazard pay for that.

Perhaps the alien biomorphic healing sanctuary explains why Donald Stern has not aged visibly in two decades.

Wes Freewald took his first photograph (of a Buick hubcap masquerading as a UFO) when he was seven years old.

Tucker’s parents do no know he works for the World Chronicle.  How far away from a grocery store checkout line do they live?

Above:  The Freewalds

Great Lines

Donald Stern:  “This alien has his mojo on so hard he could talk Mother Teresa into a threesome with Mahatma Gandhi.”

Donald Stern:  “Now let’s see where this Jacqueline Suzanne monstrosity is headed.”

Grace Hall, describing the World Swingers Convention:  “This is like the Red Shoes Diaries on Geritol.”

Wes Freewald, encouraging Grace Hall to resist arousal:  “Think of nuns, dead puppies, the dude who played Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Wes Freewald:  “I think I need to wash out my skull with soap.”

Wes Freewald:  “Man, after tonight, I’m going to pay off some shrink’s mortgage.”

Above:  Part of the Front Page

In-Universe

The Chronicle exists in the same universe as another Sci-Fi Channel series, The Invisible Man (2000-2002).  Yet Donald Stern dismisses that proposed story for the World Chronicle as preposterous.  Given what is not preposterous in previous episodes of The Chronicle, this is ironic.

Before Donald Stern reassigned Grace Hall to the STA story, she had been reporting on a man with an exposed brain.  (We will hear of this man again.)

Tucker once spent a night in a man-eating oven.

The Grant Hotel and the offices of the World Chronicle are less than a mile apart.

Donald Stern has an impressive alien arsenal in the archives of the World Chronicle.

Smiley is an extraterrestrial disguised as a human being.

Alonso and Jolene Freewald refer to some events from Here There Be Dragons.

Above:  Sal and Donald at Work

Comments

This episode combines the mysterious, the dangerous, and the funny well.  The soundtrack accents the appropriate mood at any given moment, and what needs to be off-camera is off-camera.  Human imaginations can fill in the other details.

“Racks ‘N’ Rears” is an unambiguous name for a strip club.

Touched By an Alien has more quotable lines than Take Me Back, the previous episode in both broadcast order and production order.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Common Objects Puns   1 comment

  1. The man without a calendar could not get a date.
  2. Is a group of people wielding their fly swatters a swat team?
  3. A candle that does not smell like anything makes no scents.
  4. If a handbag were to sweat, would it perspire?  I really have a handle on these puns, don’t you think?  I am tote-ally a master of the genre.
  5. Did the Medieval warrior use a knight light?
  6. The lawyer opened then closed his valise.  It was an open-and-shut case.
  7. I looked around for somewhere to write my name.  When I succeeded, I said, “Tag, you’re it.”

Feast of William Henry Draper (December 18)   2 comments

Above:  William Henry Draper

Image in the Public Domain

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WILLIAM HENRY DRAPER (DECEMBER 19, 1855-AUGUST 9, 1933)

Anglican Priest, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator

William Henry Draper comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Methodist Hymnal (1966).

Draper was a priest in The Church of England.  He, born in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, England, on December 19, 1855, was a son of Henry Draper and Lucy Mary Draper.  Our saint studied at Cheltenham College then at Keble College, Oxford.  Draper, ordained in 1880, was, in order:

  1. Curate of St. Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury (1880-1883);
  2. Vicar of Alfreton (1883-1889);
  3. Vicar of the Abbey Church, Shrewsbury (1889-1899);
  4. Rector of Adel, Leeds (1899-1919);
  5. Master of the Temple, London (1919-1930); and
  6. Vicar of Axbridge (1930-1933).

Draper left a literary legacy.  He edited Seven Spiritual Songs by Thomas Campion (1919) and Hymns for the Tunes by Orlando Gibbons (1925).  Draper translated Petrarch‘s Secretum (published in 1911).  His published original works included The Victoria Book of Hymns (1897) and Hymns for Holy Week (1898).  Draper’s hymns, both original and translated, numbered in excess of 60.  They included “In Our Day of Thanksgiving” and “Lord, Through This Holy Week.”  His translations included, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” published in 1926.

Draper, aged 77 years, died in Clifton, Bristol, on August 9, 1933.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

William Henry Draper and others, who have composed and translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 10: Take Me Back (2001)   5 comments

Above:  The Departing Alien Spacecraft

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Take Me Back

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired September 15, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-112

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Elaine Hendrix as Kristen Martin

Len Cordova as Detective Hector Garibaldi

Robert Crow as Detective Chiklis

Steven Flynn as Max

Mike McCafferty as Averill

Melissa Reneé Martin as Sylvia McKenzie

Erika Napoletano as Officer Quinn

Charley Rossman as Officer Martin

Behind the Camera

Writer = Naren Shankar

Director = Krishna Rao

Officer Quinn and Tucker Burns, Dressed as an Extraterrestrial

Brief Summary

The episode starts at a later point in the narrative, contains flash backs, jumps back and forth, then catches up with itself before proceeding to the end of the narrative.  In this summary, I tell a linear story.

On the first day….

Sylvia McKenzie, en route to alien abductee support group meeting at a community center, wanders into a store.  She sees a mask that freaks her out.  She begins screaming.  The customers flee.  The story manager uses cable ties to restrain her then calls a mental hospital.  Grace Hall and Wes Freewald from the World Chronicle get to the store first.  Grace, abducted six times, bonds with Sylvia, who invites her to the group therapy session.  Then Tucker Burns walks into the store.  Sylvia hallucinates that he is an alien, so she freaks out again.  Grace comforts Sylvia.  The two women go to the group therapy session.

The therapists are Max and Averill.  Grace is initially skeptical of them.  She says she has a “pretty good psychobabble detector.”  Grace is especially skeptical, initially, of Max’s suggestion that Tucker help Sylvia reenact her first alien abduction.  Max suggests that helping Sylvia confront her fears and change the outcome will prove helpful.

Tucker and Kristen are in her kitchen.  He realizes that they are a couple when he knows the organization of Kristen’s kitchen.  The date ends immediately after Grace interrupts it.  In the archives of the World Chronicle, Sal the Pig-Boy hands Tucker the preserved skin of an extraterrestrial.  In a warehouse, Tucker, dressed as an alien, helps Sylvia reenact the abduction.  The therapy works.  Later that day, she disappears, though.

On the second day….

Off-camera, police officers find Sylvia’s corpse, minus the brain and the spinal column.

At the World Chronicle, Donald Stern assigns Tucker a story about aliens performing surgery in a warehouse.  Tucker and Grace are concerned that, if the publisher were to learn of the alien abductees support group, he would publish a story about it, thereby disrupting the group.  The reporters also know that the story is a non-story.  Tucker ignores the assignment.

Max and Averill tell Grace that Sylvia has left town.  That night, Grace, alone in her bedroom, hallucinates that a space alien is there, too.

On the third day….

At the World Chronicle, Grace hallucinates that Tucker is an alien.  She tells him that she remembers her abductions as if they happened to another person.  Donald asks how the reporting on the assigned story is going.  Wes stonewalls the publisher better than Tucker does.

Max encourages Grace to engage in abduction reenactment therapy, too.

That night, in the same warehouse, Tucker, dressed as an alien again, helps Grace reenact her first abduction.  N.Y.P.D. Officers Quinn and Martin (Get it?  Quinn Martin!) interrupt the production.  (That was a good choice of words, was it not?)  Grace runs away.  Officer Quinn unmasks Tucker, who says, “I can explain this.”

On the morning of the fourth day….

Grace runs off to see Max and Averill.  She tells Max that she remembered more than she had.  Max and Averill are extraterrestrials following up on test subjects.  Averill, on Max’s orders, sedates Grace.  Then he starts chittering.  Max and Averill have also been triggering hallucinations.

At the police station, Tucker is in a room with a one-sided mirror.  The police are holding the reporter for questioning.  Detectives Garibaldi (a recurring character) and Chiklis suspect Tucker of having assaulted Grace and murdered Sylvia.  Kristen arrives at the police station.  Tucker tells her that Grace may be the next murder victim.  He asks Kristen to find Grace, to save her life.

Donald Stern learns about what Tucker has been doing.  He is not terribly upset about the lying, though.  The publisher is also an attorney.  He takes Tucker out of the police station as Kristen goes off to find grace.

The real story is more interesting than the one Donald thought he had.  In the archives of the World Chronicle, Sal detects an alien signal emanating from the community center.  Wes, Tucker, and Donald go to the community center.  Donald uses a really big gun to kill Averill before he can attack Tucker and Wes.  Our three heroes rescue Grace before Max can remove her brain and spinal column.  Max escapes through the ceiling.  Sal calls; the alien signal is a launch countdown.

Tucker, Wes, and Donald escort Grace out of the community center just as Kristen arrives in a taxi cab.  All of them witness a spacecraft launch into the sky and fly away.  Detectives Useless (otherwise known as Garibaldi and Chiklis) suspect Wes, Tucker, and Donald of having harmed Grace.  She tells them that Max and Averill killed Sylvia and tried to kill her, too.  Grace also tells the detectives that Wes, Tucker, and Donald saved her life.  Garibaldi wants to take statements from everybody, but Donald, as an attorney, prevents that.

Later….

In the offices of the World Chronicle, the latest issue reveals that Donald is making the most of the real story.  He is also focusing much of the attention on his heroics.  This will continue into the next issue.

Kristen visits Tucker at work.  She is feeling insecure in her worldview, given what she saw recently.  However, she feels secure dating him.  Grace tells Tucker that Kristen is a keeper.

Grace looks at Donald and, momentarily, sees an extraterrestrial.  It is just a hallucination, probably, she tells herself.

Above:  Sylvia McKenzie

Character Beats

Tucker, Wes, and Grace take care of each other.

Donald Stern is always eager to rescue an employee and to print a really good cover story.

Donald Stern is a renaissance man.  He is a journalist, a publisher, an attorney, an exorcist, and an expert in retrofitting space stations.

Above:  Averill and Max

Great Line

Wes:  “I’m not going to let some Alpha Centaurian Hannibal Lector get busy with our girl.”

Above:  Donald Stern, Wes Freewald, Grace Hall, Tucker Burns, and Kristen Martin

In-Universe

This episode follows Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns narratively.  Let Sleeping Dogs Fry, the episode aired immediately prior to Bring Me Back, properly belongs to a time previous to Bring Me the had of Tucker Burns.

Donald Stern’s middle initial is “Q.”

Donald Stern being a space alien in disguise is not the wildest accusation one could make.  After all, he has not aged visibly in at least two decades.

Above:  Kristen Martin

Comments

Take Me Back is one of the better written serious episodes of The Chronicle.  Naren Shankar deserves much praise for his script.

Finally, Kristen saw something bizarre she could not immediately dismiss as hooey.

Above:  Part of the Front Page of the World Chronicle at the End of the Episode

A Final Note

The Chronicle:  News from the Edge is difficult to find on physical media.  A fan-made DVD set is available, but, to the best of my knowledge, NBC/Universal has not issued the series on physical media officially.  The only website I know of that offers streaming of The Chronicle is archive.org.  The episodes on that website are versions a fan recorded from Canadian television.  I am thankful that the series is available for viewing at archive.org.

I notice, however, that the video quality is consistent with VHS–not as clear as one gets from most physical media and from paid streaming services.  This irritates me only whenever I try to read certain details from the series.  What, for example, is the date on the front page above?  I have a guess, but the image is not clear.

Even if I did know for sure, the date might not prove helpful in ironing out the proper viewing order of episodes.  My attention to details reveals that dates on front pages of the World Chronicle can be unreliable for that purpose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

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Engineering and Science Puns   Leave a comment

  1. The cranky meteorologist had stormy relationships.
  2. Nuclear power plant employees must have that CANDU attitude.
  3. When Louis was a young his mother said that he should retire at a proper hour, or else he would stay up “Pasteur bedtime.”
  4. If a group of people talks about solar power, is that a panel discussion?
  5. The bottle went to the hospital for plastic surgery.
  6. Satellites do not weigh much.

Feast of John Darwall (December 18)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Matthew’s Church, Walsall, England

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN DARWALL (BAPTIZED JANUARY 13, 1731-DECEMBER 18, 1789)

Anglican Priest and Composer

John Darwall comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Methodist Hymnal (1966).

Darwall was a priest, a composer, and an amateur musician.  He, baptized at Houghton, Staffordshire, England, on January 13, 1731, studied at Manchester Grammar School then at Brasenose College, Oxford (B.A., 1756).  Our saint, ordained in The Church of England, served as the Curate (1761-1769) then the Vicar (1769-1789) of St. Matthew’s Church, Walsall.  Darwall wrote a pamphlet, Political Lamentations Written in the Years 1775-1776, which he dedicated to Frederick North (1732-1792), the Prime Minister (1770-1782).  Our saint also wrote The New Universal Psalmodist (Fifth Edition, 1770), in three volumes.  In that set, he published original tunes for the Psalms.  One of those tunes, listed as both DARWALL and DARWALL’S 148TH, has remained popular with editors of hymnals.  (You, O reader, may know it as a tune for “Rejoice, the Lord is King” and/or “Ye Holy Angels Bright.”)  Furthermore, Darwall published two volumes of piano sonatas.

Darwall, aged 58 years, died in Walsall on December 18, 1789.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC, ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY AND MARTYR, 1430

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, ENGLISH FEMINIST AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1582

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Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

we bless your name for inspiring [John Darwall]

and all those who with music have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 728

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Bones Puns   Leave a comment

  1. When bones cooperate, they undertake a joint effort.
  2. To tell a joke about hips is a waist.

Feast of George Wallace Briggs (December 16)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS (DECEMBER 15, 1875-DECEMBER 30, 1959)

Anglican Priest and Hymn Writer

Also known as G. W. Briggs

George Wallace Briggs comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Methodist Hymnal (1966).

Briggs, an Anglican priest, left a fine legacy in hymnody.  He, born in Kirkby, Nottingham County, England, on December 15, 1875, studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.  After graduating with honors in 1897, he became a priest in The Church of England.  Our saint’s first assignment was to a poor congregation in Wakefield, Yorkshire.  Briggs left that post to become a chaplain in the Royal Navy (1902-1909).  His naval background was evident in a hymn, “Christ is the World’s True Light,” in which he described Jesus as the world’s

Captain of salvation.

Briggs, who married Constance Emily Barrow in 1909, had five children with her.  He served as the Vicar of St. Andrew’s Church, Norwich (1909-1918), the Rector of Loughsborough (1918-1927), the Canon of Leicester (1927-1934), and the Canon of Worcester (1934-1956).  Then Briggs retired.

Briggs wrote.  He composed books of prayers for children.  Our saint wrote at least 22 hymns and helped to found the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland.  Constance reported that Briggs wrote hymns and never dated them.  He contributed hymns for hymnals, thus establishing the date of publication, but not of composition.

Briggs, aged 84 years, died in Hindhead, Surrey, on December 30, 1959.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVS AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF THE AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

George Wallace Briggs and others, who have composed hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Political Empathy and Wisdom (and the Absence Thereof)   2 comments

On the Duty of a President of the United States to Be the Consoler-in-Chief

May we praise those elected officials and candidates for elective office who act wisely and with empathy as we condemn those who act to the contrary.  And, when the time to decide for whom to vote arrives, may we reckon wisdom and empathy as credit to those who possess them, just as we properly lambaste and vote against those who lack them.

I realize that empathy is not a constitutional requirement for Presidents of the United States, but I also argue that voters the right to insist upon it.  Presidents with whom I have generally agreed with with whom I have generally disagreed have mastered the role of Consoler-in-Chief.  In the wake of a hurricane in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lyndon Baines Johnson carried a flash light one night and knocked on doors, to greet his fellow citizens in distress.  Ronald Reagan consoled the nation after the explosion of the Challenger.  He used Peggy Noonan’s words, of course, but he had empathy.  Besides, Presidents have had speech writers for a long time.  Bill Clinton was a fine Consoler-in-Chief after the terrorist attack on the federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Barack Obama led the congregation in “Amazing Grace” at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, after the racist shooting there.  Excelling as Consoler-in-Chief used to be a standard part of being the President of the United States.

Donald Trump is a self-absorbed and immature little man.  He should think about the country and the world first, not about himself.  The contrast between he and Joseph Biden is stark.  Biden, who has buried his first wife and some of this children, understands grief.  When he says he knows grief, he speaks accurately.  He also speaks with empathy.  Biden looks presidential.  He is already the Consoler-in-Chief.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

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The Chronicle: News from the Edge–Episode 9: Let Sleeping Dogs Fry (2001)   4 comments

Above:  The Ghostly Face of Luther Stubbs

All images in this post are screen captures.

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Let Sleeping Dogs Fry

Canadian Television Rating = PG

Hyperlink to Episode

Aired September 8, 2001

Production Number = 5009-01-101

Starring

Chad Willett as Tucker Burns

Jon Polito as Donald Stern

Reno Wilson as Wes Freewald

Rena Sofer as Grace Hall

Curtis Armstrong as Sal the Pig-Boy

Sharon Sachs as Vera

Octavia L. Spencer as Ruby Rydell

Main Guest Cast

Cliff De Young as Sheriff Baxter

Clayton Blocker as Brett Masters

LeAnna Campbell as Emmy Masters

Jennifer Morrison as Gwen Williams

Monica Louwerens as Jane Johnson

Sean McEwen as Robby Johnson

Geoff Stults as Luther Stubbs

Behind the Camera

Consulting Producer = Naren Shankar

Writer = Javier Grillo-Marxuach

Director = Bruce Seth Green

Above:  Gwen Williams

Brief Summary

Three rich men in North Hampton, New York, have died via appliances during the previous six weeks.  A food processor electrocuted Alex Harrison.  An electric toothbrush asphyxiated James Williams.  And a blade from an air conditioning unit impaled Robby Johnson.  At the offices of the World Chronicle, Donald Stern as assigned Tucker Burns, Grace Hall, and Wes Freewald to the story.

In North Hampton, Grace, Wes, and Tucker check into a motel and proceed to investigate the story.  Sheriff Baxter seems friendly, but he is not helpful; he keeps declaring these deaths accidental.  Tucker briefly reunites with Brett Masters, a former classmate.  Then Brett dies via his Casio electronic organizer while speaking to Tucker on the telephone.  Sheriff Baxter expels our heroes from the scene of the death, but not before Wes photographs the screen of Brett’s laptop computer.  When Wes prints out the image, he sees a human face on the screen.

Wes and Tucker go to a bar, to gain information.  Wes learns the identity of the man on the screen:  Luther Stubbs, who disappeared recently.  Tucker goes home with merry widow Gwen Williams, whose husband died via electronic toothbrush.  She is glad to be a widow; she was planning to become a divorcée anyway.  Gwen seduces Tucker.  Electronic items in her house go haywire, but she refuses to leave.  Tucker, who has seen Luther’s face in Gwen’s television screen, leaves.  He takes some crucial evidence with him.

All the men who died via appliances belonged to the North Hampton Gun Club.  He compares notes with Wes outside the motel room.  Inside the motel room, electricity is going haywire; Grace’s hair dryer gives her an electric shock.  Luther was a very popular pool boy who tried to blend in with the rich.  None of the rich men accepted him.  Their wives, however, took him as a lover.  They did not care about him; they used him.

On the light-hearted side, Grace initially refuses to hand over her hair dryer as Tucker, afraid of electricity, unplugs and puts away as much as possible that comes with a plug.  The next day, Grace is self-conscious about her hair.  Then she gets her hair dryer and her preferred hair style back.

Sheriff Baxter and the members of the North Hampton Gun Club were responsible for the murder of Luther Stubbs.  Baxter, who has incriminating photographs of Luther with Gun Club members’ wives, has been extorting money from the remaining members of the Gun Club.  He has used these funds to finance his new swimming pool, the one by which he hosts a party one night.  At that party, a hose arises from the pool and drags him down into it.  Then a string of lights drops into the pool, electrocuting the sheriff.

Wes, Grace, and Tucker confront Gwen, whose cover story crumbles when the ghost of Luther Stubbs speaks to her from her television screen.  He shows Gwen, Wes, Grace, and Tucker his murder, as he saw it.  The Luther tries to kill them, but they get away to the scene of Luther’s murder.  There, Gwen apologizes to him, and he crosses over.

Above:  Emmy and Brett Masters

Character Beats

Class conflict is a theme in this episode.  Tucker is so poor he has difficulty scrounging up enough quarters to use a laundromat.  Luther Stubbs resents the rich, even in death.  Most of the wealthy residents of North Hampton look down upon the less fortunate.  And Grace Hall, an heiress, resents her parents, her upbringing, and materialism.

Tucker Burns enjoys reruns of Barnaby Jones (1973-1980).

Grace’s father invented Squeezy Cheese, a popular processed food product.  She has never consumed the product, however.  She has “issues with parental authority.”

Tucker lived off crackers and Squeezy Cheese during his undergraduate days.

Above:  Jane Johnson

Great Lines

Donald Stern (to Tucker Burns):  “That dental tool had a mean streak a mile wide.”

Wes (to Tucker Burns and Grace Hall), referring to the German automobiles in North Hampton:  “The last time I saw this much German hardware, I was watching the History Channel.”

Grace (to Tucker):  “You’re freaking out.  You’re like Dan Rather on election night.”

Grace (to Tucker):  “A hair dryer is not a material possession.  It’s a way of life.”

Tucker (to Grace):  “You know, Grace, processed cheese isn’t just a snack.  It’s a way of life.”

In-Universe

In Sonora, Mexico, a volcanic eruption kills a World Chronicle correspondent and liberates a demon.  Donald Stern leaves to cover the story and assist in an exorcism.  (His exorcism-related skills also feature in Baby Got Back (the next produced episode yet the fourth one aired).

The date on the front cover of the World Chronicle at the end of the episode is March 19, 2001.

Above:  Tucker Burns and Grace Hall

Comments

This, the second produced episode, flows best, in terms of narrative, some time prior to the previous aired episode, Bring Me the Head of Tucker Burns.  Tucker is still Wes Freewald’s rooomate and has not become Kristen Martin’s boyfriend yet.

This episode is enjoyable and worthy of watching again.

Rena Sofer has wonderful comic timing.

Reno Wilson could read the telephone book and make it funny.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

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