Sunday, November 26, 2006

Review: Electric Company's greatest hits and bits

If you enjoyed the classic PBS show “The Electric Company,“ and you can brace yourself to sit through a PBS pledge drive, you should enjoy “The Electric Company’s Greatest Hits and Bits.” It’s a 90-minute (counting pledge drive time) special airing on many PBS stations in the next few weeks. It aired in my neck of the woods recently.

The show was obviously produced for us grown-ups who watched Electric Company in our youth. A few classic clips are shown -- most notably classic Tom Lehrer songs “L-Y” and “Silent E” -- but these tend to take a back seat to the documentary style of the show, which features interviews with cast members, most of whom I have not seen since the show went off the air. I’m thankful they’re still with us! And watching the clips gives you a great appreciation for their incredible talent. Even the “lesser-known” actors hold their own very well with the more established stars. This cast was truly -- sorry folks, I can’t help it -- an “electric” company.

The interviews are entertaining and give a good indication of the fun that must have been a part of being on the show. I especially liked the story of Skip Hinnant’s reaction to finally “getting the joke” about Fargo North. I have to admit, I didn’t get the joke myself for a few years!

Morgan Freeman fans in particular should enjoy this one. Although Morgan isn’t interviewed, the cast has fond memories of him and his comedic talent really shines. And he sings well, too! According to Rita Moreno, it was Morgan’s idea to add the “uhh, uhh, uhh” into the Easy Reader theme song. Hey, that’s genius! That song wouldn’t be the same without the “uhh, uhh, uhh!”

Only complaint: show more clips! We saw some great clips from the show, but many of them were edited slightly. And there were quite a few characters barely (if at all) mentioned (Jennifer of the Jungle, Short Circus, Pedro, etc.) Seeing favorite clips like “L-Y” and “t-i-o-n” was great, but there’s a lot more material we could have seen.

(Side note: There are plenty of good songs from the Electric Company -- including many sung by Morgan Freeman -- that have never been released commercially. It would probably be worth it for Sesame Workshop to delve into its archives and create a good collection of these. I‘m hoping that I’m not the only person in the world who remembers “Sweet Sue at the Sweet Shop!”)

So all in all, this is a real treasure for fans of the show & it gives the non-informed a general idea of what the show was like. Check your local listings and be sure to watch it if you can. And if it's not airing where you are, you can pick up "Best of Electric Company" DVD sets now, which is, of course, very cool! This is the first time that this material has been released commercially, so it's good to know that there are a lot of other fans out there. "Uhh, uhh, uhh!"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Spitting out the bones

Okay folks, this is one of those “long stories” that can never fit into one complete blog posting because it is so complicated. But I will try to give you as much info as I can without going too crazy.

According to the Pensacola News Journal, On July 13, 2006, evangelist Kent Hovind and his wife were arrested “on 58 federal charges, including failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes and making threats against investigators. Of the 58 charges, 44 were filed against Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, for evading bank reporting requirements as they withdrew $430,500 from AmSouth Bank between July 20, 2001, and Aug. 9, 2002.”

I had the chance to attend one of Kent Hovind’s lectures at a church service near my home. I had first heard him as a speaker on Sky angel’s “Creation” program and had listened to some of the material on his web site. He’s a fine speaker, and despite a few disagreements I had with his views, I felt he had some good things to say as well. As he said, “You have to learn early in life to eat the meat (the good things) and spit out the bones (the bad things).”

Outside the main sanctuary, there was a table set up with several of Kent’s videos for sale. I didn’t buy any -- and I didn’t fault Kent’s ministry for trying to sell them. There are plenty of other ministries offering materials for sale.

But then came the offering. The plate came around, it was said, for Kent’s ministry, and I put in a small gift. Then, a few minutes later, another offering came around. This time for the church itself. Hmmm. I don’t think it’s wrong to have more than one offering for more than one need. But I had already given as much as I had planned to give! Although I support the church, I felt like I was being cheated. Perhaps it wasn’t right for me to feel that way, but I did. Now, I learn that I may have good justification for feeling cheated.

Mr. Hovind was found guilty last week of tax fraud. He's in prison right now awaiting sentencing.

A very wise teacher I once had gave a good explaination of why good ministries go bad. He was referring specifically to TV evangelists, but I think the same rules apply to many situations. People begin with very good intentions. They honestly want to serve the Lord. But because they're ultimately following only their own hearts, they begin to do stupid things that ultimately destroy their ministry.

At the very end of his “Questions and Answers” seminar (part 3), Kent Hovind gives himself away. The reason his ministry (and so many others) is so popular is that he has found his audience. He speaks to the people who want to hear him.

Friends, please understand that I am not trying to badmouth a believer, or anyone’s beliefs. But Kent Hovind’s problems are familiar. They represent a mindset that is all too common among people- not just evangelical Christians, but people in general. The attitude is, “I am correct, and I am going to do whatever I want to do, no matter what anyone else says.” Although they may try to justify their actions from the Bible, their underlying selfishness is so obvious that it’s almost painful. It’s not just Kent -- I’m sorry to say that I could give you a list of people who seem to display the same attitude.

It is not so much a question of who is wrong or right. It is a case of “actions speak louder than words.” Kent seems to be saying, “I don’t have to pay taxes. I’m a special case.” Well, even if he is, what does that mean for me? Nothing, because Kent’s stand is for himself and his ministry, but not anyone else.

Hey- aren’t all Christians “owned” by God? Doesn’t all the money that we make ultimately belong to God? Then why should I have to pay taxes on God’s money? If Kent doesn’t have to pay taxes, neither should I. Well, you can bet the IRS isn’t going to let that excuse fly, can’t you? At least, not with me.

Remember “Eat the meat and spit out the bones?” Well, if the charges are correct, Kent refuses to spit out the bones of income taxes. He won’t “turn the other cheek.” Whether you agree or disagree with him, his arrogance is a real thorn in his side - whether the attitude is justified or not.

I don’t know . . . Maybe this is what is required of someone to be a spiritual leader. (Remember Jesus throwing out those who sold goods in the temple?) Maybe this arrogance is what is required for us lowly people to take notice and say, “Hey, if he can stand up for what he believes in, why can’t I?”

But of course, our zeal is no match for our leaders’ zeal, and if we can’t get it from them, we are forced to go within ourselves to find it, where we realize that it was there all along, and that we don’t need to become arrogant to show it off to the world.

You can read more about Kent’s ministry and download some of his talks at If you like the Loch Ness Monster, don’t miss Kent’s seminar part 3, where he dives into the issue of dinosaurs . . . that may still be living?
You can read Kent’s comments about his arrest at