When a terrible fire engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 2019, many people were rightly outraged over politicians declaring this as an opportunity to “reimagine” the historic landmark. There were horrible “conceptual” drawings of Notre Dame being rebuilt into a modern glass and steel monstrosity instead of the transcendent beauty of its medieval French Gothic architecture.

Well, Kim Hirsch at the Victory Girls blog reports that there’s good news and bad news. The restoration work is advancing, and most of it is intended to painstakingly restore the original structure. The bad news: some parts are being changed to include politically correct modern themes such as multi-culturalism and environmentalism, and in a style that’s being compared to Disney’s Epcot Center.

Incredibly, the areas getting these inappropriate updates were parts of the Cathedral that suffered the least fire damage and would have been the easiest to restore to their original condition. But restoring a 900-year-old cathedral whose creators intended it only to glorify God and lead people to Christ must take a backseat to leading people to the political causes that constitute the new religion of the left.

Maybe the current climate activist Pope believes that mixing PC causes with religion will draw people to Christ, but there’s not a very successful track record of that. Generally speaking, the closer a church hews to the Bible, the more likely it is to have a growing congregation, and the opposite is true for those who embrace secular views and liberal political causes.

John Hinderaker of the Powerline blog has a good example: his own church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In a post titled, “Get Woke, Empty the Pews,” Hinderaker notes that as the ELCA has become more and more liberal, its membership has shrunk from over 5 million in 1988 to 3.3 million today, and falling. And it’s doubtful that a recent pastoral letter from a presiding bishop that condemned the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal and claimed that the “idols of our society” are “guns, violence and white supremacy” will reverse that trend.

I like to believe that most people in our society still believe in the Ten Commandments, which means they have no other gods before the Lord and they make no idols or graven images. Those are, after all, the first two. And I think the churches that are growing by bringing more people to Christ are the ones that remain aware of that.

Friday, stock markets tanked hard amid fears of more travel restrictions and lockdowns after a new COVID-19 variant was found in South Africa. It’s also popped up in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel, but not in the US yet.

It’s been dubbed the Omicron variant (interestingly, the next letter in the Greek alphabet after the recent Nu variant is “Xi,” but since that’s also the name of the President of China, I guess it would be too politically incorrect to say that the China virus now has a Xi variant.)

Despite the panic mongers, there’s as yet no evidence that this variant is any more dangerous than what’s already circulating, or that it won’t be stopped by current vaccines and natural immunity. And Novavax says it’s already got a vaccine in trials that could be ready for manufacture in a few weeks.

This isn’t even unexpected: all viruses mutate as the potential host population dwindles; they usually become more transmissible but less dangerous. And South Africa has a very low vaccination rate, so this doesn’t mean the Xi (sorry, Omicron) variant can evade the vaccines. It hasn’t even been determined yet if this strain was responsible for the recent leap in cases in South Africa. Yahoo News has a good article explaining what we know about it so far, and considering all the hysteria, we actually know surprisingly little for certain.

Sure, this could be a new and terrifying threat, or it could be a last gasp of this disease that peters out in a couple of weeks. Pardon me if I decline to panic because I’ve lived through enough panics from our politicians and “health experts” who didn’t really understand what they were dealing with and who wanted to impose draconian policies that only made matters worse. For the first time in history, they quarantined the healthy while exposing the vulnerable to the disease in nursing homes; forced people to stay indoors (where the disease spreads easiest); and arguably caused more damage to more people’s mental, physical and economic health than the disease did.

In response to the new variant, President Biden met for a whole half hour Friday with his top medical advisors, who still include Dr. Anthony Fauci for some reason. I was willing to defer to Dr. Fauci early on, but he’s contradicted himself, pushed false narratives and put self-aggrandizement ahead of public safety too many times. I don’t understand why many people still think his prescriptions are handed down from Mt. Sinai on stone tablets. Our health officials and media have attacked, censored and tried to de-license actual doctors who are in the field treating COVID patients if what they report contradicts St. Fauci, a DC health bureaucrat who hasn’t treated a patient since he completed his residency in 1968.

And speaking of people who’ve been in Washington too long, President “I Will Shut Down The Virus,” not travel or the economy, announced that he was placing new travel restrictions on South Africa.

Funny how Trump’s shutting down travel from China was racism, but Biden shutting down travel from the predominantly black nation of South Africa is just prudent health policy.

Please note that I’m not saying he shouldn’t shut down travel from South Africa. I’m just saying that while he’s doing it, he should also publicly apologize to Trump for slandering him and being a big hypocrite. Since he also pushed for “global vaccination” without thanking Trump for overseeing the rapid development of vaccines he badmouthed before he started taking credit for them, he might throw in an apology for that, too. (This is why I couldn’t be a modern Democrat: my memory stretches back farther than yesterday.)

Unfortunately, hypocrisy, dishonesty and political opportunism are three Washington epidemics for which we’ve never been able to find a vaccine.

As a big fan of Broadway musicals and the Great American Songbook (I run the indie label, Eclectus Records, that releases my wife, Laura Ainsworth’s, retro jazz albums), like many, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death Friday of legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim at 91.

It’s hard to imagine being shocked to hear that someone died at 91, but Sondheim seemed both ageless and timeless. He’d been writing landmark musicals longer than many of us have been alive, and it seemed as if he would always be here and working on a new show.

An abused child of wealthy divorced parents, he wrote his first musical in prep school in the early ‘40s. His best friend’s dad, Oscar Hammerstein II, became his surrogate father and mentor, and Sondheim worked as an assistant on the original productions of “South Pacific” and “The King And I.” Frustrated that the powers on Broadway wouldn’t let him write both words and music, he started out by writing the lyrics to such classic shows as “West Side Story” and “Gypsy.”

He finally got to create an entire score in 1962, for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” with its rousing opener, “Comedy Tonight!” It’s regularly revived and is still his most profitable show. He went on to create a string of ground-breaking musicals that forged new, sometimes uncomfortable ground for Broadway, but opened the genre up to more serious, adult themes. It’s ironic that Cameron Mackintosh, producer of such touristy spectacles as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats” and “Miss Saigon,” is quoted praising him in his obituary, since his shows were seen as the antithesis of everything Sondheim stood for.

Some were hits, like “Follies;” “Company,” (which yielded the standards “Being Alive” and “The Ladies Who Lunch”); the Ingmar Bergman adaptation “A Little Night Music” (“Send In The Clowns” became one of the most-recorded songs of all time); “Into The Woods,” his version of classic fairy tales that follows the characters beyond “happily ever after,” and whose great score includes the gorgeous “No One Is Alone” (it became an all-star Disney movie, but the original Broadway cast version filmed for PBS is far better and viewable on YouTube:; and the dark masterpiece “Sweeney Todd.”

Some were just too esoteric for Broadway, like “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Assassins,” “Passion,” and “Pacific Overtures” (ten Tony nominations, closed in six months.) “Sunday in the Park with George” ran for over 600 performances but still lost money. But their original cast albums are considered works of genius and include many great songs that will keep cabaret performers in material for years to come.

Sondheim was the recipient of virtually every honor the performing arts world can bestow, some of them many times over, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Since you depend on me to give you the trivia other obits overlook, here are three things you might not know that Stephen Sondheim did:

His love of intricate wordplay wasn’t limited to the tongue-twisting lyrics of songs like “I’m Not Getting Married Today” or “Your Fault.” He earned a little money early in his career by writing 11 episodes of the witty early ‘50s sitcom, “Topper.” After pocketing the paychecks, he immediately left Hollywood and fled back to New York.

His love of puzzles and murder mystery games inspired him to write the 1973 murder mystery movie “The Last of Shiela” with “Psycho” star Anthony Perkins.

And his smoldering faux-1940s torch song “Sooner Or Later” was definitely the highlight of Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy” movie. Here’s Madonna singing it at the Oscars in 1991 (it won for Best Original Song) and proving that she cleaned up real good when she wanted to:

If you’re a theater nerd and would like to dig deeper into Sondheim’s creative process, check out the documentaries “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened,” about the failed original production of “Merrily We Roll Along,” and “Original Cast Album: Company,” about the tortured recording of that classic LP under Sondheim’s perfectionist oversight. At one point, the engineer aptly says, “‘You Could Drive A Person Crazy,’ take ten.” (It was parodied on the TV series “Documentary Now” as “Original Cast Album: Co-op.”)

One of the many things that separate humans from animals is that we are supposedly capable of learning from the mistakes of others. Going by that yardstick, I have to assume that leftist DA’s who insist on letting criminals out of jail over and over, even as it continues to yield tragic results all around them, are about as smart as chimps in suits. Now, it's already happened again.

How many times do we have to hear some grieving person say, “This shouldn’t have happened” before the people responsible for it happening actually stop letting it happen?

On that subject, the Biden White House is standing by its stance to end cash bail, claiming that whether a suspect is released from jail should depend not on how much bail they can afford but how much of a threat they pose to society.

I might be willing to entertain that argument if any of these people could show me any evidence that they are at all capable of determining how much of a threat individual suspects pose. The Waukesha D.A. couldn’t even tell that the thug with a yard-long record of violent crimes who was just arrested for trying to run over his girlfriend shouldn’t be turned loose.

Guilty Verdicts

November 26, 2021

Wednesday afternoon, a jury returned guilty verdicts on nearly all charges, including felony murder and aggravated assault, against Travis McMichael, his father Gregory and neighbor William Bryan. The three white men were accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, a young unarmed black man, near Brunswick, Georgia. They had spotted Arbery running past their houses and assumed he was fleeing from committing a burglary, although no evidence ever arose to prove he’d committed any crimes. They chased him, confronted him, and Travis shot him with a shotgun. He also reportedly used a racial epithet, which earned him an extra conviction for malice murder.

This link from Fox News has continually updated information on the case, which had officials on edge due to fears of rioting if they’d been acquitted. Which, it is important to remind people who constantly attack the court system as racist, they were not.

This is the third high-profile murder verdict in less than a week, all in cases that involved charges of racist courts. Yet in this one, the white men who murdered a black man were found guilty. In the Andrew Coffee case, a black man who shot white police officers who staged a surprise late night raid of his home was acquitted on self-defense grounds. And in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, a white teenager who shot three white men who were attacking him was also acquitted on self-defense charges, which many ascribed to racism for unclear reasons. Some media outlets even mistakenly thought Rittenhouse's attackers were black.

I don’t know what conclusion we’re supposed to draw from all these verdicts about the American court system, but if juries are making their decisions based solely on race, they don’t seem very consistent about it. Here's a wild thought: maybe most jurors take their responsibilities seriously and base their decisions on the testimony and the evidence. And if that doesn't mesh with the verdicts of the media or random people on Twitter, maybe it's because the jury actually knows more about the case than they do.