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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Friday, July 30 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

'Eighties revisited

My cable TV provider has given me a surprise gift. Unexpectedly, and still unexplained, over two weeks ago my cable went out. At first, of course, Comcast blamed the problem on me, as big corporations always seem to do these days, but after several more calls they admitted that the break was on their end, though they wouldn't say how it happened or when it would be fixed. But they did offer (sportingly) to credit my account for a week of interrupted service. That was over a week ago and there's still no sign of the service being restored.

As a creature of habit whose habits included coming home from my club most evenings to tune into Scarborough Country on MSNBC and later to Leno's monologue at 11:35, at first I was irate. But as someone who has through bitter experience learned to make lemonade when life gives me lemons, I've now developed new and, for the time being, better habits. I've rediscovered the joys of VCRs and recorded tapes.

I have a collection of more than a hundred VHS videotapes, mostly from 1980s TV movies and miniseries. They were made when both the VCR became affordable for people of my socio-economic bracket at that time and my children were young enough for me to think that some day they might appreciate having a sizeable library of video tapes to make use of. And I also hoped some day I would rewatch more of them than the annual Christmas favorites, A Christmas Carol, It's A Wonderful Life, and Meet Me in St. Louis.

Among the movies I've watched in the past week are Stand by Me, which was my son Kevin's favorite movie for many years; The Trip to Bountiful, a near-Christian movie from the Protestant south; A Streetcar Named Desire (from pagan Nawlens), a TV adaptation with Treat Williams and Ann-Margret as Stanley and Blanche, and several others I've already forgotten.

The best rediscovery, that I really hoped to watch again some day but had despaired of ever having time for, are two lengthy miniseries: The Thornbirds and Brideshead Revisited. Both stories begin in the 1920s and have excellent production values, which means there are lots of outdoor location shots with authentic old-time cars and lots of "look and feel" of their era about them. Thornbirds is set in Australia; Brideshead in the English countryside. Both are Catholic-themed stories, though the tenor of Thornbirds is philosophically romantic (love conquers all, the past lives on in the next generation; they all live happily ever after...all that schlock). Still, it was well worth replaying, all eight hours of it; far better than what's usually on TV, especially here two decades later.

But better for my time and money is Brideshead Revisited, which is thoroughly Catholic in its tenor and plotting. And it was still well worth the 12 hours I had to invest in rewatching it.

Besides their separate lives in separate networks in the early '80s, both had a history to me before their appearance in present form. The Thornbirds stirred a lot of controversy on its premiere broadcast, because ABC chose to launch it on Holy Week that year. The major plot complication in a very thick book is the adulterous liaisons between a priest, who becomes a Cardinal, with a woman whom he helped raise. Because I thought the Catholic church's criticism of the network struck me as more than warranted, though not a Catholic myself, I showed my solidarity and refused to watch the series on its premiere broadcast. However, I taped it when it was rerun a season or two later, and watched the tapes for the first time even later than that.

Brideshead Revisited has a much deeper background. It was a major novel of World War II (during which time the plot winds up, with the central character an officer in the British military), by Evelyn Waugh, one of the major literary English figures of his time, brother of Alec Waugh, some of whose less literary, more cinematic, novels have also been made into movies. I was aware of the Waughs when my close teenage pal, John Golias, suggested I read Brideshead Revisited, at the suggestion of John's uncle, a well educated and theologically astute man that I had met once at his home in Cleveland. I proceeded to read the now classic novel at age 17, and was captivated by it and impressed that such a literary presentation and apologetic of Catholicism, especially in Protestant England, existed.

For most of the story, of course, Catholicism is only a subtext, the primary one being the roaring '20s as they were interpreted at Oxford University and upperclass English society, a story about intense youthful friendship, alcoholism, and lives lost and redeemed through various thrusts and parries. I certainly recommend either the novel or the miniseries if you can find it at your video store or online.

I still miss Scarborough and Leno and will probably fall back into my old habits soon after the cable service is restored. But I'm glad Comcast gave me an opportunity to revisit the television of two decades ago.

A lot has changed, more than even I had realized.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Only in America

...do drugstores make the sick people walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Sent by Mike Harris  

Thought for today

You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard.

Sent by Trudy Myers 

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