TBT: Monday Morning Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back

Earlier this week I reviewed 1977’s Star Wars, the film that started a craze that is still raging nearly five decades later, despite Disney’s best efforts to destroy the franchise.  What I didn’t realize is that nearly a year to the day earlier, I’d written a review of 1981’s The Empire Strikes Back, quite possibly the greatest Star Wars film ever made—and, I would argue, just one of the best films ever set to celluloid.

Naturally, I had to do a throwback to my review of the film, which I think was my first Monday Morning Movie Review.  Kind of crazy to think that I’ve been doing regular movie reviews every Monday for a year.  It both seems longer and shorter than that.

Well, no need in going any longer.  Here is 28 September 2021’s “Monday Morning Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back“:

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The Weather

From the title, you’re probably thinking, “wow, he’s really reaching for content now—he’s literally writing a post about the weather.”  Well, yes, it’s a bit of a stretch for a blog post, but while enjoying the absolutely glorious weather this past weekend, I began contemplating the topic.  It’s perhaps not quite as trite as we think.

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Bull Terrier Tuesday: It’s Official!

Well, it’s finally happened:  pending some signatures and initials from folks at The Bull Terrier Rescue Mission (at the time of this writing; they will likely be immortalized in digital ink by the time you read these words), I have officially adopted Murphy.

It’s been quite an adventure since I picked her up at the Sam’s Club in Goldsboro, North Carolina on 22 July 2021.  Since then, she’s been all over the I-20 Corridor in South Carolina, and all the way to Athens, Georgia.  She’s spent a great deal of time sleeping on couches—those on which she is allowed, and those from which she is forbidden—and she seems to win fans wherever she goes.

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Monday Morning Movie Review: Star Wars (1977)

The weather here in South Carolina has turned blissfully autumnal, which means we can finally partake in all manner of outdoor activities without dying of heat exposure and dehydration.  The humidity has calmed itself to a bearable level, and the mornings and nights are crisp and cool.

One of my enterprising neighbors—and most dogged constituents—took advantage of the cool weather this weekend to test out an inflatable projector screen.  He invited me to join his family for a private, driveway screening of the original 1977 Star Wars, later entitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.  Specifically, he screened the “de-specialized” version, as he called it, so there was none of the clunky 1990s CGI additions of the special editions.

In other words, it’s the way Star Wars was intended… before George Lucas changed his mind and decided to change his own films.

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Lazy Sunday CXXXII: Milestones

Yesterday the blog hit 1000 days of consecutive posts, so I figured I’d keep the celebration going by looking back at past milestones here at The Portly Politico:

  • 101 Postmatians – 101st Consecutive Daily Post!” (and “TBT: 101 Postmatians – 101st Consecutive Daily Post!” – Ah, how quaint—900 days ago, I was celebrating reaching 101 posts (I apparently forgot to observe the occasion on Day 100).  In looking back at this post, it seems I’d already written some of my best posts, like “Nehemiah and National Renewal” & “Nehemiah Follow-Up”; of course, more goodness was to come.  The TBT version of the post appeared on the 200th day of posts.
  • 500” – I can tell from this 500th post that I was stretching a bit.  I did lay out my controversial theory about the “personality” of numbers (I claimed that the number “500” has “charisma, gravitas”).  The 500th day also came two months into The Age of The Virus, not exactly a glory age for liberty.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: 1000 Days” – Yesterday’s post—the big one thousand.  It’s behind a paywall, but the full post details my plans for the blog going forward, as well as offering some reflections about the last 1000 days.  The post actually landed me a new subscriber, too, at the generous $5 a month tier.  Anyone else interested in rewarding my hard work and initiative—hmmmm?

Well, that’s it for this 132nd edition of Lazy Sunday.  It looks like we’re heading towards 150 of these, so I’ll probably have to do some other ridiculous retrospective instead of creating new content.  Wooooot!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: 1000 Days

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Well, here it is—the 1000th consecutive day of posting to WordPress (I hit 1000 posts about 114 pieces ago; now I’ve reached 1000 days of consecutive posting).  It’s crazy to think, but this latest incarnation of The Portly Politico has been going for roughly two-and-three-fourths years, a fresh post every single day.  I’ve written so much at this point, I’ve forgotten a lot of it.

Granted, some of those have been filler posts, saying, “Oops, I will have to post a real post later,” but I tried to avoid those as much as possible, and I have generally made them up (especially to you paying customers).  I’ve also come up with some series, like Monday Morning Movie Review and Supporting Friends Friday, to help with ease the load a bit (not to mention Lazy Sunday and TBT, both of which let me off the hook with some reblogging of old material).

It being the 1000th day, I’ve decided to look back at this latest incarnation of The Portly Politico—where it was, where it is, and where it’s going.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

In Memoriam: A Triple Obituary

In lieu of Supporting Friends Friday, I’ve decided to dedicate this Friday’s post to the memories of three great men that left us in the past week.  One was a beloved funnyman; the second an influential public intellectual; the third a former colleague’s husband.

That order is not indicative of a ranking by significance or importance, to be clear.  As I noted, I consider all three of these gentleman to be great men.  Each contributed something to the world in their own way.

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TBT^2: The Joy of Autumn

Well, the first day of autumn was yesterday, although my Middle School Music students came into class Tuesday saying that their Geography teacher told them 21 September, rather than 22 September, was the first day of this glorious holiday.

I have little idea when the seasons calendrically begin, other than it’s always in the low-twenties of the month:  Spring in March, Summer in June, Autumn in September, and Winter in December.  As I’ve noted before on this site, in South Carolina it’s all pretty much one big season—summer—with some intermittent sprinklings of the actual season throughout the year.  That can even mean a cold front in the summer (Thy Will Be Done) or an unseasonably warm “Indian Summer” in mid-January.  I’ve sweated on New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving many times, and it’s always muggy on Halloween.

But I digress.  The discussion about when autumn really begins (some Bing!ing revealed it is 22 September this year, not 21 September) led to an impromptu crash course in songwriting.  We began listing all of the qualities of the fall, and the qualities of the then-soon-to-be-departing summer.  The students then crafted those into verses (about all the fun summertime stuff that was disappearing), with the chorus being all about how great the autumn is:  pumpkins, scarecrows, falling leaves, etc.

The kids ate it up.  I made up some cheesy crooner melody to go with it as a placeholder, but a precocious seventh grader began experimenting with an unusual C-Db-Eb chord sequence, which completely changed the melody.  I broke the students into groups to begin writing new verses, and another student took it upon herself to compile the lyrics into a master Google Doc.  Another student—a visual artist trapped in Music class—supplied the artwork for our soon-to-be-hit single, featuring a scarecrow and some other creature dancing around a flaming pumpkin (it’s pretty awesome).  Our little scribe-compiler mentioned that we needed a bridge, so we’ll have to get hopping on that.

It was completely unplanned—one student even suggested, snarkily, that I hadn’t planned a lesson that day, so I created this one out of thin air.  It’s only half true:  I did have a lesson planned—we were going to write, clap, and count rhythm lines—but the discussion of autumn sparked the idea for a much more engaging lesson about writing songs (which is, essentially, writing poetry, but better—there’s music attached!).

Anyway, here’s to autumnal weather to come—and good, middle school-penned songs to go with it.

With that, here is “TBT: The Joy of Autumn” (thanks to Pontiac Dreamer for today’s picture!):

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The Joy of Renaissance Music: Palestrina’s “Pope Marcellus” Mass

It’s another school year, which means another year going through the history of Western music in Pre-AP Music Appreciation.  This week we’re diving into Renaissance music, after spending last week covering the music of the Middle Ages.

Contrary to popular belief, the Middle Ages were not a period of depressing darkness, but rather a lively age.  I certainly wouldn’t want to be a peasant pushing an ox cart full of dung, but that peasant knew his place in the universe, in the sense that he knew he was part of an ordered cosmos with God at both its head and its center.

More on that another time, but I mention it to note that the Renaissance would not have been possible without that long age of faith in the Middle Ages.  Still, the Renaissance Period—variably dated, but starting roughly sometime in the fifteenth century, and extending to the seventeenth century—was a period of increased interest in the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, especially the human realism depicted in the art of those great civilizations, both a continuation of and a departure from the Middle Ages.

It also saw the declining influence of the Catholic Church in Europe, especially in the wake of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.  As Protestantism and other social forces broke the Church’s monopoly on education and its dominance over art and music, Catholicism mounted a Counter-Reformation, aimed at both reducing the influence of Protestantism and reforming real abuses within the Roman Church.

That effort, naturally, involved revisions to music.  Catholic priests denounced the increasingly theatrical nature of church music, decrying it as distracting from the simple message of the Gospel and the sacred Latin text, instead serving as gaudy entertainment for Mass goers.  Much like the megachurch arena rock concerts of today, services had become garish and maudlin, a reflection of the corruption within the Church.

It was in this context that Giovanni Pieluigi da Palestrina composed his greatest works.  According to Roger Kamien in Music: An Appreciation (the eighth brief edition, which I use with my students), Palestrina composed some 104 masses and 450 other sacred works, and his music became, essentially, the gold standard of church music until modern times (“masses” in the musical context are works built around five sung prayers, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, not to be confused with the Catholic service).

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