Hollywood and the World at Large Mourn the Loss of Norm Macdonald

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

This is a line from Joni Mitchell’s hit song “Big Yellow Taxi,” which was written back in 1970.

Mitchell’s words perfectly capture the feelings that a lot of folks are having right now in trying to deal with the passing of Norm Macdonald – Hollywood actor, writer, and most notably, stand-up comic extraordinaire.

Many of his peers are remembering him as the funniest man they’d ever known.

A natural stand-up talent, he followed the universally relatable comedic tradition of observational humor, which has been practiced by so many iconic figures of the comedy world, including the greats Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Jerry Seinfeld.

His career arc took him in a rather novel direction that combined pivotal aspects of life with deadpan minimalism.

He managed to keep his stoic nine-year battle with cancer secret from the public, but on at least one occasion he was able to memorialize his angst in a joke that deals with the whole notion of a person somehow losing the battle with the disease.

“I’m pretty sure, I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure if you die, the cancer dies at the same time. That’s not a loss, that’s a draw,” Norm said.

Developing his stand-up brand in Ottawa, Canada, he made a name for himself across his native land.

After appearing on the television series “Star Search,” he landed a job as a writer for Roseanne Barr’s smash TV series “Roseanne,” which started its run in the 1990’s and is still going strong in syndication.

Speaking of things that are still going, Macdonald was blessed with a stint on Saturday Night Live (SNL), where for a total of five seasons he served as part of the SNL cast.

He ultimately secured the coveted anchor throne on the “Weekend Update” segment of SNL, where he got to reign for three and a half seasons.

He guested on other TV shows, “The Drew Carey Show” and “NewsRadio” being a couple of them.

He appeared in movies too, and became a regular on the talk show circuit with hosts the likes of David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, and Howard Stern.

The time-honored joke structure was deftly modified by Norm and his unique form of comedy. He would stretch the set-up section of a joke to the point of audience impatience and would then abruptly spew out a minimalist punch line.

Comics many times serve as the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, sending out a warning to society that it better start paying attention to the critical issues that hover around.

Norm embraced the role. He was a truth teller and wasn’t timid about aiming his humor crossbow at some pretty powerful targets.

On one such occasion his venture into humor, rooted in truth, actually cost him his job.

An NBC executive had reportedly fired him because of a decline in the show’s ratings. But he and others claimed that the dismissal was due to some O. J. Simpson jokes that he had let loose with in the “Weekend Update” segment.

After his termination from the show, he returned to SNL as a host.

Sporting his trademark grin, he used his opening monologue to slam the network for firing him, quipping that the only reason he was asked to come back and host was because the show had “gotten really bad” since his departure.

He was the final stand-up comic to appear on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Letterman had told a specific joke during a 1970s appearance on a Canadian talk show. In the studio audience was a 13-year-old comedy fan, Norm himself.

He loved Letterman’s joke and never forgot it. In tribute, he performed the bit during the last stand-up act of the final Letterman show.

Ending the set with tears rolling down his cheeks, he told Letterman that he loved him.

Interestingly, he exhibited an intellectual depth that is not typically associated with modern day comics – a Christian perspective with a desire to defend it.

A few years ago he used his Twitter account to question the value of the Enlightenment, bringing a predicable reaction from the liberals, who were upset at the prospect that Norm was Christian friendly.

He penned a post, which he later deleted.

“The Enlightenment turned us away from truth and toward a darkling weakening horizon, sad and gray to see. The afterglow of Christianity is near gone now, and a Stygian silence lurks in wait,” Norm wrote.

He was referring to the loss of artistic reverence for the sacred and a move toward human focused post-modernism, which paved the way for a variety of 19th-century movements, most unfortunately, communism.

Once while serving as one of the judges for the NBC reality show “Last Comic Standing,” he had to deal with a contestant who had mocked the Christian faith.

While other judges characterized the contestant’s jokes as “brave,” Norm stated, “I don’t think the Bible jokes are brave at all.”

He went on to tell the audience, “If you think you’re gonna take on an entire religion, you should maybe know what you’re talking about.”

He was later asked why the contestant’s material had bothered him.

“Oh, just the smugness. There are a lot more hack ‘smart’ comedians nowadays and atheist comedians. It’s so dull. To be talking about being an atheist living in West Hollywood is not the bravest stance to take,” he said.

He put out the following tweet in 2017: “Scripture. Faith. Grace. Christ, Glory of God. Smart man says nothing is a miracle. I say everything is.”

C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

Catch your act there, buddy.

‘The Matrix’ of Our Lives

“The Matrix,” which debuted in the year 1999, turned out to be a watershed sci-fi movie.

Its impact is enduring, and it seems to have an ethereal quality and relevance that has never been more significant, and in many ways more disturbing, than at our present time.

The setting of the film is a dystopian future, one in which humanity lives and breathes a simulated reality, thus the name “The Matrix.”

Artificial intelligence is the means by which a false reality has been created in order to muddle the minds of human beings but still allow the shells of their bodies to be used as energy sources.

Thomas Anderson, played by Keanu Reeves, is a computer programmer who goes by the hacker alias “Neo.” The hand of destiny leads Neo to a man named Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne.

Morpheus holds the key that is able to unlock the secret vault of knowledge that holds the answers to questions about which Neo has pondered; questions that concern the nature of the world in which Neo and most of his fellow human beings unknowingly reside.

At one dramatic point in the plotline, Morpheus holds in his hands two different pills – one red and one blue.

Extending the choice of pills to Neo, Morpheus explains that if he chooses to take the blue pill, it will leave him in his current state (which is living in a computer-generated world that is blissful, yet completely inauthentic).

If he chooses to take the red pill, it will ultimately remove him from the Matrix and allow him to experience the awareness of the actual world (which has been imposed upon him and is blocked from his consciousness).

There is one monumental caveat if he chooses to take the red pill: Once chosen and consumed, there is no turning back, no changing his mind, no undoing of what has been done.

Shifting into real life gear, if shades of “The Matrix” are present in our lives today, should we take the red pill or the blue pill?

The decision at its core turns out to be a matter of individual priority. It also seems to be a matter of the soul in which an individual is somehow graced with an intrinsic thirst for the Truth.

In the film, Neo decides that truth is worth pursuing. He chooses the red pill.

In so doing, he learns that the generation of human beings of which he has been a part is actually living a life of enslavement. The Matrix had been cunningly crafted to exert total control over people’s minds and keep them in a perpetually docile state. In this way, their bodies are able to be exploited as a source of energy.

Neo, a kind of unexpected hero, rises to become part of the rebellion against the non-human overlords.

Use of the phrase “red pill” has become part of our pop culture lexicon in a major way. Its application has spread far and wide, and it has been utilized by individuals and groups across the ideological and societal spectrum.

It is most often used to convey the process of becoming enlightened to truths about reality that have the capacity to unearth previously hidden delusions. Unfortunately, due to its widespread use by some individuals and groups, “truth” in many cases may be subject to the interpretation of the user.

The phrase has been used to promote everything from a meatless diet on a YouTube channel to the men’s rights movement.

Conversely, when social media and cable commentator Candace Owens initially set up her YouTube channel called “Red Pill Black,” it was intended to encourage African-Americans to escape the mindset of liberalism.

For Christians, the symbolism contained within “The Matrix” film has come to be highly meaningful. The three main characters, Morpheus, Neo, and the aptly named Trinity, work as one to defeat the evil artificial intelligence cyber-entities.

The emergence of Neo at birth from an incubator womb is, metaphorically speaking, a type of virgin birth. Neo’s anointing as the “One” is prophesied beforehand in the film’s plotline. He is eventually betrayed by a Judas figure named Cypher. And he suffers death, but after 72 seconds returns to life, paralleling the death and resurrection of the biblical Savior.

There is one critical point in the movie when Neo asks why his eyes hurt so much.

Morpheus replies, “It’s because you never used them before.”

So which will it be for you, red pill or blue?

Superman Gives Captain America an American History Lesson

Dean Cain gained a whole lot of fame when he starred in the hit 1990s television series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.”

Cain played the dual role of the understated Clark Kent and his alter-ego Superman, with actress Teri Hatcher co-starring as Lois Lane.

At the height of its popularity, “Lois and Clark” brought in roughly 15 million viewers per show. Its influence spawned a series of novels, trading cards, and a comic book, which all worked to solidify Cain’s brand as a major player in the “Superman” legacy.

Not only does Cain have the looks to take on the Man of Steel role, he’s got the athletic cred under his belt to make the media magic believable.

While attending high school in Santa Monica, California, the-then teenage Cain played on the same baseball team as future fellow actors Charlie Sheen, Rob Lowe, and Lowe’s brother Chad.

Moving on from high school, Cain attended the prestigious Princeton University, where he became a standout record-breaking free safety on the Princeton Tigers football team.

After graduating from the Ivy League, Cain signed with the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills as a free agent. An unfortunate knee injury during training camp put a halt to his football career.

Pro football’s loss was Hollywood’s gain.

Cain recently became the subject of a Twitter trend, due to some statements that he made about a new Captain America comic book series.

The actor had expressed his displeasure with Marvel’s new comic book series, “The United States of Captain America,” which features a different version of Steve Rogers than fans would expect.

The new sub-patriotic comic book character states that the American Dream is really “…two dreams. And one lie,” adding that for some, it “isn’t real.”

Cain has a sense that the change of direction for the title character is anti-American in nature and appears to be shoehorned into the content of the comic book.

Quoted in the Hollywood Reporter Cain says, “I love the concept of Captain America, but I am so tired of this wokeness and anti-Americanism.”

“In my opinion, America is the greatest country in history. It’s not perfect. We are constantly striving for a more perfect union, but I believe she’s the most fair, equitable country anyone’s ever seen, and that’s why people are clamoring to get here from all over the globe,” he adds.

Cain wonders aloud about whether today’s U.S. critics realize what life is like in other countries around the world.

“Do these people ever travel outside of America?” he asks. “Do they go to other countries where they have to deal with governments who aren’t anywhere near as fair as the United States? I don’t think they do. I do it all the time, and I kiss the soil when I get back.”

Cain also confirms his belief in “individual freedom” and “equality of opportunity,” explaining that these are “what everybody strives for, that’s why they are trying to come here.”

He expresses his concern with how denigrating our nation has become both alarmingly widespread and twistedly fashionable.

“The cool thing to do today is to bash America,” he says. “The comic books do it, the schools, they indoctrinate our kids, they do that, our movies, our television shows are full of it, celebrities, athletes, actors, the media – they love to bash America.”

Still, Cain believes that America can once again be steered in the right direction.

He believes that “the pendulum will swing back to openly appreciating American values, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, as soon as people start studying them in school again.”

Cain’s sage remarks prompted the usual trolls to launch an all-out social media assault, accompanied by their typical unoriginal profanity-laced claptrap.

Not known for wearing his faith on his sleeve, Cain nevertheless has chosen to lend his star power to a number of faith-based projects, including the 2012 movie “Heaven’s Door,” in which he stars alongside actress Charisma Carpenter in a drama about a young girl who has a near death experience, passes through the Pearly Gates, and acquires the gift of healing.

Cain appeared in the highly successful 2014 film “God’s Not Dead,” which is about a Christian college student whose faith is challenged by an atheist professor, played by actor Kevin Sorbo.

Cain co-starred in the 2018 film “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” which is the gruesome tale of physician and abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of numerous felonies that included first degree murder in the deaths of three infants who were born alive.

In 2020 Cain starred with Sorbo in “Faith Under Fire,” a movie in which a firefighter who is trying to cope with his wife’s cancer diagnosis finds that his faith is tested in the process.

Cain’s project this year is “Break Every Chain,” a movie about a police officer who, while battling alcoholism and depression, experiences God’s life-transforming grace.

In the two most recent film projects mentioned above, Cain plays the role of a pastor. He has several more faith-oriented projects in the works, which are currently being filmed or are in post-production.

Although he has generally been private about his religious convictions, a post that is pinned to the top of his Twitter account gives an indication of some of his more deeply held beliefs.

The 2018 post is from the Holy Land. It features a photo of Cain and his son in a sacred place, Bethany beyond the Jordan.

The accompanying tweet reads: “My son and I praying at the exact spot where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist… Simply Incredible. One of the most holy sites on the planet. #Blessed”

Kanye West’s Music Gets Born Again

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Kanye West’s latest career move may come as a shock to some. To others, it offers a blessing.

Rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, and fashion designer—these are just a few of the titles to which Kanye lays claim across a wide ranging career.

In his music journey, he oftentimes ventured out onto stylistic change territory. But his upcoming release, which was recently revealed to the public in a sneak preview on Instagram, courtesy of his reality show star wife, Kim Kardashian, Kanye appears to grab hold of his faith to share with the world.

A Bible, which is opened to the book of Psalms, appears in a photo that Kim posted. Adjacent to the Good Book is a list of songs written in a notebook. At the top of the page is the album title “Jesus Is King,” with the names of tunes listed immediately below. The songs have Christian-themed titles that include “Garden,” “Selah,” “God Is,” “Baptized,” “Hands On,” “Sunday,” and “Sweet Jesus.”

Words and phrases, which appear to be lyric ideas written on a notepad with the phrase “He will defend,” are seen immediately above the words “kingdom,” “lion,” and “fire.” At the bottom of the page the date September 27th appears, indicating the album’s release date.

Just to make sure her Instagram followers received the explicit message that Kanye is close to dropping a Christian album, Kim captioned her post with a praying hands emoji that followed the release date.

Christians have wondered about Kanye’s faith over the years, especially due to his use of the nickname “Yeezus.” He has utilized Christian themes in his music as far back as 2004, with a tune titled “Jesus Walks.” After the success of the song, he was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “I will say that I’m spiritual. I have accepted Jesus as my Savior. And I will say that I fall short every day.”

In 2014 Kanye referred to himself as a Christian during one of his concerts, and again in a January 2019 Twitter post.

Kim was actually educated in Christian schools of both the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic denominations. “We don’t share it much, but we’re really religious,” she told Vogue.

“We start our day with a group chat with a Bible verse from my mom, and everyone chimes in on the meaning of it. We are very Christian—and our work ethic and our discipline comes from so many years at Catholic school,” Kim shared.

Kim’s father, Robert Kardashian, was Christian Armenian. In April 2015, Kim and Kanye traveled to the Armenian Quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem to have their daughter North baptized in the Armenian Apostolic Church at the Cathedral of St. James.

Kanye’s statements about his faith have become more explicit, giving testimony and signaling a willingness to share his Christianity. Nicki Minaj recently said on an Apple Music radio broadcast that Kanye had told her he has, in Christian terms, been “born again,” revealing to his female rap colleague that he had turned his life in a different direction.

“Sometimes in the music business, we think that other artists don’t believe in God or aren’t spiritual as we are…because I was just with Kanye, and he told me he’s a born-again Christian now,” Minaj said.

Kanye revealed to Minaj that his religious point of view fundamentally changed after a crisis in his life back in 2016. He discussed in the most recent issue of Forbes magazine the ordeal in which hospitalization required him to cancel his tour. The subject of the rapper’s faith was a prominent part of the magazine interview.

After being asked how he managed to come out of that challenging period in which he had been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, Kanye explained that he had made it through by “being in service to Christ,” conducting himself in what he referred to as “radical obedience.”

Religious conviction also played a role in the growth of Kanye’s Athletic Shoe entity, Yeezy sneakers. A few years ago he was $53 million in debt and in need of finances to fund his innovative ideas. His shoe concern is expected to take in $1.5 billion in annual sales this year, according to Forbes, with Kanye owning 100% of the business.

“I’m just blessed through the grace of God to go from tweeting at Mark Zuckerberg,” Kanye said. He was referring to having asked the Facebook founder for $1 billion in investment funding.

This year Kanye initiated what he calls “Sunday Service” meetings, which are weekly gatherings for family and celebrity friends to fellowship and sing Christian-themed music together.

Kanye’s gatherings have looked and sounded more and more like church services. In fact, Kanye and Kim arranged for the cleric who conducted their wedding, Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr., to preach a sermon there.

“I had the idea of making a church before but I really was sketching it out. Then in 2019, I was like I’m not letting a Sunday go by without making this,” West said on the season finale of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

With a new Christian album and what, in essence, is a church, Kanye may have taken on the mantle of rap minister of the gospel.

May the world be blessed by the born again West.

The Separation of Church and Search

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Google has been busy of late laying down a track record of bias against conservative, pro-life, and Christian content.

Credible reports indicate that the tech giant has been manipulating searches on the part of participant users to facilitate end results that favor liberal outcomes and simultaneously suppress conservative content.

Google, via YouTube, has removed videos of Prager U, and Live Action and demonetized YouTuber Steven Crowder’s channel as well as Dr. Michael Brown’s Christian ministry, among others.

Concordia Publishing House, the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, had an ad disallowed due to the fact that items in the promotional materials and website postings refer to “Jesus and/or the Bible.”

In early 2019, a Google software engineer became a whistleblower and agreed to go on record to provide an inside witness in support of the premise that the tech company has a bias against Christians.

Hostility by Google regarding the tenets of Christianity comports with the politics of Silicon Valley and in particular the political ideology endemic within the search giant’s corporate culture.

James Damore, an engineer who was terminated by Google, filed a class action lawsuit last year, alleging that the tech giant harassed him and others over their right-of-center political views. Damore had written a memo that characterized the environment within the company as a “politically correct monoculture.”

This descriptive was recently made manifest when Google-owned YouTube suppressed an advertisement for a charity whose purpose is to provide assistance and support to military veterans. The explanation given for the suppression of marketing expression was that the ad in question contained the keyword “Christian.”

Keywords are routinely utilized in online advertising to allow advertisers to have their ads appear in search results whenever potential customers who are conducting internet searches type in a particular term or phrase.

Chad Robichaux, a Marine veteran and former MMA fighter, started a charitable foundation called the Mighty Oaks Warrior Program in order to serve veterans and their families in their battles to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Robichaux became a Marine at age 17 and served eight tours in Afghanistan, where he was part of the Joint Special Operations Command Task Force and earned a Medal of Valor for his service to the nation.

The marketing team of Robichaux’s charitable organization attempted to publish an ad to promote an episode of the group’s “Mighty Oaks Show” that highlighted ways in which the Christian faith assisted a Korean War veteran in finding healing.

“So one of the keywords to boost the ad was the word ‘Christian,’ which we use regularly,” Robichaux told Faithwire. “The ad was denied specifically because of the use of the word ‘Christian.’”

Robichaux posted a screenshot on Twitter of an email that he received from Google, which indicated that the keyword “Christian” was “unacceptable content” and a “potential policy violation.”

According to Robichaux, the group has run ads with the keyword “Christian” for years. In 2019 alone, the group had 150,000 impressions on this word in its ads. However, because it appeared to be a new restriction, members of the group called the Google helpline. They were told that Google’s new criteria prohibited the use of the word “Christian.”

YouTube responded on Twitter, stating, “We know that religious beliefs are personal, so we don’t allow advertisers to target users on the basis of religion. Beyond that, we don’t have policies against advertising that includes religious terms like ‘Christian.’”

Google’s explanation seemed coherent, possibly even one that had been made in good faith, with a line of reasoning based on an ostensible policy of separation of church and search. However, Robichaux produced evidence that Google’s policy treats some religions as more equal than others.

Mighty Oaks proceeded to run the exact same ad with the keyword “Muslim” in place of “Christian.” Perplexingly, the ad was approved.

The two screenshots Robichaux provided stood in stark contrast to one another. The first showed that the word “Christian” had been flagged, while the second showed that Robichaux’s group had been given the green light to use the keyword “Muslim.”

The above example indicates that Google, the company that holds the key to the information door of the digital world and also owns the number one global video portal, has an animus toward a faith to which a majority of our nation’s residents adhere.

In light of Google’s selective application of its business policies, it is appropriate to examine the legislative privileges bestowed upon the tech giant. It is also fitting to question whether or not anti-trust law should be used to restore competition in the market over which Google currently reigns.