Friday, April 23, 2010

Toasting NBC

No, Virginia, I don't mean the Nelson Brewing Company, although that outfit certainly deserves recognition. Right here in Nelson, in the old turn-of-the century brewery building up on Latimer Street, some twenty years ago it brought back local brewing. I've nothing against the big guys, as someone has to have the money to own hockey and soccer teams, but I also like the atmosphere that comes from the breeze bringing you a good sniff of hops and malt on brewing days. I will have that in our own kitchen on Sunday, if MT has her way, as we head into a batch of light for the sake of the upcoming summer, but I don't mind honest rivalry, and in fact the old brew master sold me a bag of dark malt when I couldn't get it at the local supplier.
Yes, Virginia, I really do mean the National Broadcasting Corporation, the gigantic concern operating out of New York and Los Angeles, bringing us news and entertainment. Well, not me precisely, as hermits like myself really only use the box for DVD's and the weather and a bit of whatever the Vancouver Canadian channels pump our way, but you know what I mean. One of the really big guns of the world media. On the cutting edge of information, drama, comedy, and music.
Well, sometimes.
Hands up, those who remember the NBC TV production of  a Life of Jesus, back in the middle 70s. You might not, and for that omission you need feel no guilt, no mea culpa at all, as it was a forgettable production, so forgettable it lost NBC shareholders - this is not Canada or Britain remember - a cool 10 million. That's how much the production lost.
Now the thing is, I tried to warn them. Well, God tried to warn them. Not by showing up Himself in head office and waving a cautionary finger, but by scaring the pants off me and ordering me to the phone to dictate a telegram. A very odd telegram on a warm morning in the late summer of 1976. It instructed NBC to put 10 million dollars in my bank account in Nelson.
I had lived in two different fraternity houses in my later days as university, and in one of them heard some pretty hairy tales of initiation stunts, but nothing like this. The natural reaction was easily obvious. This guy's either a really stupid con man, or he's crazy. I know about those alternatives because back in the winter of  64-65 I had used them on a university president. I was edging into discussions about my unusual relationship with the Almighty, and I said, "Father, either I'm lying, or I'm crazy, or I'm right."
I didn't get much of a reply, but that may have been because the word lying may have disturbed him so much as to momentarily numb his brain. As I learned later, he had been up to a great deal of lying in his priestly career, both with his tongue in words, and the rest of his body with women.
And I didn't get any response from NBC, although I would not assume for the same reasons. But on the other hand, there was no healthy curiosity as to why they would receive such an order. What sort of man could even think of such a thing? Is he a nutter, or is he a prophet?
Now they were making this film on Jesus, weren't they? And Jesus was both in blood and spirit descended from the prophets of Israel, so there might be a connection there, could there not? Anybody here ever read the book of Ezekiel? And so forth, until some fairly literate human being sleuths around a bit, or picks up the phone and dialogues and discovers the situation at the other end. That's what's supposed to happen, isn't it? Isn't this why we make movies? And television dramas? And then we get something better than we started out with. Or maybe we find out that we should stop what we're doing, because we're not doing it right, and save ourselves 10 million dollars.
But of course that didn't happen, or the story wouldn't be coming out this way, now that it can be told on the Net.
Let us move on to January, l984. January 25, to be precise. Again, those interesting disturbances in the soul that mean action has to be taken or else. Bye bye peace of mind and the getting on with one more orderly day in the life of order, unless you do what your told. It was early in the morning here in the Kootenays, very dark, but they were up and at the working day in New York. So I rang NBC.
"Hello," says a very pleasant, young, female voice, after I got through to the news desk. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm calling from  Nelson, British Columbia," I said, "and I have to tell you that when Pope John Paul comes to Canada in September his journey is not going to go smoothly. His schedule will be disturbed." I gave her my name, and she asked me if I had a title. I said I was a prophet. We both hung up, and no one more senior called me for more information, not even after the Pope's scheduled landing at Fort Simpson was frustrated by an unseasonal bank of fog rolling down the Mackenzie.
This not a full report, especially as it does not include what happened ten days before the call to New York, when I phoned the telegram people to send a stiff note to John Paul himself, but things are moving very swiftly around the Net, and this information needs to be out there now, if only to give the real journalists a chance to separate themselves from the wannabes who have yet to learn that a lust for headlines can be much more dangerous than the other kind.

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