Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Best Little Whorehouse in Toronto?

If both people are getting paid to have sex with one another, is it still prostitution? Or, if a crowd of people are watching, is it an illegal sex show at an unlicensed strip joint?


Or . . . are the Louisiana state and Ontario provincial governments just in the bidness of granting tax incentives for porno flicks? 'Cause if you're actually doing it, it ain't acting.

Those are just a few of the questions that come to mind after reading a particularly juicy gossip item in the New York Daily News about Factory Girl, which shot in Shreveport and north of the border in Toronto:

Sienna Miller and Hayden Christensen treat us to some utterly convincing lovemaking in their new movie, "Factory Girl." And it's no wonder: We hear the costars actually coupled on camera.

"It's not simulated," an insider tells us. "They're really doing it."

In the movie, Miller plays doomed Andy Warhol protégé Edie Sedgwick. Christensen plays a folk rocker modeled after Bob Dylan.

It was during the film's Louisiana shoot that Miller ran into another squall in her stormy romance with Jude Law -- and turned for comfort to Christensen, the "Star Wars" heartthrob.

"They spent about a month hanging out," says one pal of Christensen. "But then she decided she didn't want a relationship. Hayden was devastated. He really fell for her."

Added a friend of Miller, "Sienna wanted to try to make another go of it with Jude. But, again, it didn't work out. At the end of last summer, she and Hayden ended up in Toronto for more shooting. They hadn't talked in six months. But it turned out to be a great reunion."

Apparently. When it came time to shoot the love scene, word is the former lovers dispensed with the flesh-colored socks and pads favored by actors on less familiar terms. And, once the cameras were rolling, the two 25-year-olds fell into old habits.

At the movie's premiere on Monday, director George Hickenlooper would tell us only: "Sienna and Hayden grew close during the filming. It was an emotional experience for all of us." As for the sex, he said, "We tried to portray it tastefully."

And was congress actually in session during the shooting?

"I can't comment," Hickenlooper answered. "You'll have to ask Sienna about it."

Miller left the Chelsea Hotel after-party before we could ask about the love scene - and where she now stands with Christensen, who wasn't at the premiere. Yesterday, Miller's publicist said the sex wasn't bona fide: "She's just a really good actress."

I'll bet.

ONCE UPON A TIME, folks in Louisiana could express pretty clearly what is alleged to have transpired here. But today, it would be politically incorrect to speak of "white trash up to no good."

So I won't talk about what the hell kind of trashy people get their freak on in front of God and everybody . . . including "mainstream" movie audiences. Sex between a husband and wife is special -- sacramental, even.

This -- if it actually happened as alleged -- is people with no shame and no decency rutting in the name of Debbie Does Dallas and The Devil in Miss Jones, which used to be known as "smut," not "art."

And this episode of Brats Behaving Badly was subsidized by somebody's tax dollars.

One, two, three . . . what are we fightin' for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn . . .



And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

As we all prepare for an even worse quagmire in the Middle East -- not to mention really, really expensive gasoline (as opposed to the mundanely expensive gas we've been dealing with on and off again the past couple of years) -- the CNN story excerpted below has gotten me thinking about the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964.

That and President Bush's bamboozle-us-into-Iraq track record, that is. Read on:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Pentagon is investigating whether a recent attack on a military compound in Karbala was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives, two officials from separate U.S. government agencies said.

"People are looking at it seriously," one of the officials said.

That official added the Iranian connection was a leading theory in the investigation into the January 20 attack that killed five soldiers.

The second official said: "We believe it's possible the executors of the attack were Iranian or Iranian-trained."

Five U.S. soldiers were abducted and killed in the sophisticated attack by men wearing U.S.-style uniforms, according to U.S. military reports. (
Watch how attackers got into the compound )

Both officials stressed the Iranian-involvement theory is a preliminary view, and there is no final conclusion. They agreed this possibility is being looked at because of the sophistication of the attack and the level of coordination.

"This was beyond what we have seen militias or foreign fighters do," the second official said. The investigation has led some officials to conclude the attack was an "inside job" -- that people inside the compound helped the attackers enter unstopped.

Investigators are looking particularly at how the attackers got U.S.-style military uniforms and SUVs similar to those used by U.S. troops. (
Watch what could happen if the U.S. opts to strike Iran )

"'Who was behind it all?' was the fundamental question," the first official said.

The U.S. military on Friday confirmed accounts that the soldiers had been abducted and driven away from their compound. The military had said in a January 20 press release only that "five U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded while repelling the attack."

Some Iraqis speculate that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps carried out the attack in retaliation for the capture by U.S. forces of five of its members in Irbil, Iraq, on January 11, according to a Time.com article published Tuesday. (Read the article)

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has a reputation for taking harsh and unrelenting revenge on its enemies, the Time.com article says.

The five Iranians are still in U.S. custody.

The U.S.-led coalition has said a preliminary investigation found links between the detainees and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has provided funds, weapons, bomb technology and training to extremist groups in Iraq.

ONE THING IS FOR CERTAIN. The average American teen-ager's protests against having to study "boring old history that I'll never use anyway" has lost whatever cachet it might have possessed.

And, though I'd never vote for the guy, you have to hand it to dark-horse, libertarian-leaning GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul:
Rumors are flying about when, not if, Iran will be bombed by either Israel or the U.S.-- possibly with nuclear weapons. Our CIA says Iran is ten years away from producing a nuclear bomb and has no delivery system, but this does not impede our plans to keep “everything on the table” when dealing with Iran.

We should remember that Iran, like Iraq, is a third-world nation without a significant military. Nothing in history hints that she is likely to invade a neighboring country, let alone do anything to America or Israel. I am concerned, however, that a contrived Gulf of Tonkin-type incident may occur to gain popular support for an attack on Iran.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Where girls are first but Jesus is scarce

Jesus.

Jesus.

Jesus.

Jesus.

Jesus.

THERE. AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, I am now even with the very extensive website of Marian High School in Omaha, Neb., in mentioning Jesus Christ.

Remember Him?

If that's any indication of how prominent Jesus Christ and the authentic teaching of His Church is at the all-girls high school run by the Servants of Mary, a Catholic parent could do just as well in their daughter's faith formation by sending her to the local public high school -- which, generally, you can count on to be an excellent one, by the way.

And that Catholic parent of a teen-age girl could save quite a wad of Benjamins every year as well. Certainly enough to go a very long way toward financing four years at, say, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Which has a nationally lauded Catholic student center, by the way.

Mrs. Favog and I have been volunteering in parish youth ministry in Omaha for a long time now. As in, many of the first kids we worked with are now in their 30s.

Not to pick on Marian (because, God knows, it is more the rule than the exception in the Catholic high school world, from what I hear), but in our experience, if there's some serious teen-age, angst-ridden challenging to be done of some really basic, really plain teachings of the Catholic Church in youth group, there's a Marian girl behind it somewhere.

Or a Creighton Prep boy.

SO, YOU HAVE TO ASK . . . what is up with this Catholic School Thang? Are parents that clueless about schools that faithless, or are kids being kids and there ain't no dang thing that can be done about it?

Or is it all about prestige and tradition with a lot of parents, and not so much about Jesus? If at all.

I don't think it's unreasonable, as an adult Roman Catholic, to really wonder what Catholic schools are about anymore, and whether that happens to matter to anyone in charge. If spiritual results could be quantified, tested and reported -- and if Catholic parents and Catholic clerics worried about them at all -- my years-long observation leads me to suspect there would be a massive uproar and subsequent "No Christ Left Behind" initiative from the U.S. bishops.

Naw . . . instead we get annual PR campaigns and fund-raising appeals. In other words: You can bulls*** some of the people most of the time, but most of the people don't give a rip.

Amy Welborn, over at Open Book, has a thread going about Catholic-school angst. It's WAAAAAAAY more active than a similar one for I Heart Catholic Schools. F'rinstance:

I attended a Catholic high School, Schulte HS in Terre haute IN. The school was staffed in part by the Sisters of Providence. We were taught that it was undesirable and supersticious to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. We were discouraged from saying the Rosary. In religion Class the Priest, Fr. Godecker, told us that healing from the Anointing of the Sick was "too magical" and that sacraments sybolized community concern. We voted on the Real Presence and Transubstanciation, and they lost. The school was closed for financial reasons, people weren't sending their kids there. That's also where I learned to smoke pot, drink alcohol and commit several sins of the flesh. It too, was a classist institution.

My Kids went to Holy Family in New Albany. They are now Adults, in their early twenties. They didn't know why we would venerate relics. They didn't know to invoke the intercession of saints. They had no concept of the Eucharist as more than a community memorial feast. They were there on tuition assistance, and were treated a second class by teachers and other students, who somehow found out that they required assistance. More classism.

I dis-recommend Catholic Schools now. There are some good ones, but very few.


Posted by: Mitch S. at Jan 29, 2007 9:29:52 AM

Dear Diary: Why I almost quit Pope FM yesterday

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's another in the occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago from the front lines of Catholic radio -- Pope FM.

* * *

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31, 2001



Dear Diary,


I didn't mention one thing that hap-pened earlier in the day yesterday. Probably because I was still too all-out furious about it.

The background (as if I didn't know, but humor me, Me):

We've been having trouble with the reliability of our teen-age hosts of Holy Spirit Rock, a music show that follows the Saturday rerun of Keys to the Kingdom. When they don't show, I've been substituting the computer-generated voices of John (an American PC) and his "lawfully-wedded co-processor" the British Marsha. I use a couple of text-to-speech demos on the Web to generate the voices.


Actually, I think John and Marsha are better than the "organics." I have a great deal of fun putting the show together -- actually, I put together the human-hosted show, too, by voice tracking the kids and then assembling the show with the music, bumper music, "shotgun" show IDs and sound effects. And it's commercial-radio slick, too.

But something happened that really, really pissed me off and damn near caused me to quit on the spot:

Yesterday, in a production meeting with the general manager, Mary said she was about to cancel the show if the kids didn't take it more seriously. I told her I thought the show was an important outreach to youth and to cancel the present hosts, not the show, if they didn't clean up their act.

I added that I thought the show had great potential and eventually could be syndicated nationwide.

She said youth programming wasn't "a priority" at this time, and that she didn't want me spending so much time putting Holy Spirit Rock together. She's starting a daily series of five-minute reflections by local priests, and wants me to concentrate on stuff like that.

I responded that I was seriously worn out and burned out by the long hours and constant technical crises, and that doing Holy Spirit Rock was the only thing keeping me engaged right now. She repeated that HSR wasn't a priority, and that people wanted to hear their priests on the air.


Besides, she added, "youth don't contribute to the station" monetarily.

Well, Me, I've always heard the expression "seeing red," but I thought it was just that . . . an expression (but, once again, ah reckon you knew that). But I think I really did "see red" yesterday when Mary said what she said.


It took every bit of my strength to control myself. I almost bit a hole in my tongue to keep from calling her a g**damn Pharisee and quitting.

Instead, I repeated that youth programming was important and that all the production work was getting done, despite the time I spent on Holy Spirit Rock. The rest of the day I alternated between intense anger and being near tears. I could not believe what I had just heard.


Then again, maybe I'm just naive.

Today, the development guy and I were talking about youth programming, and how many experienced media professionals had been offering to help out with things like Keys to the Kingdom. He agreed with me totally about last night's KTK blunder, and then I told him what Mary told me about kids "not contributing" to Pope FM.

This guy is the best money hustler I've ever seen, and his jaw literally dropped. His expression was one of total shock. He said "If youth programming isn't a priority, what is? That's the future." He couldn't believe she really meant what she said. Then he urged me to stick to my guns and keep hammering away on the subject.

But you know, it's not just Pope FM. There's a pattern of the Church as a whole not committing the attention and resources to its youth. And if you look at every other Catholic radio station in the country, I'll bet that what little Pope FM does in that area (generally badly) is pretty close to average nationwide (as far as radio goes . . . on the Web, there's AlphaMegaRock.com -- full time, yes, but it's just a jukebox and has low-budget written all over it).

The Church bitches and bitches about the Culture of Death, but I contend we're a part of it so long as we ignore our children.

I am just soooooooo tired. And I'm soooooo tired of how frigging Pharisaical and evangelism-incompetent "orthodox" Catholicism is.

Nighty-night.


-- Me

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hell on earth

Some people think Hell is somewhere in the nether reaches of the Earth's gastrointestinal system, and that you get there when the Big Man springs His divine trap door.

I think Hell can, and does, erupt in the bowels of Baghdad. Or New Orleans.

Or at 12410 Westwood Lane in suburban Omaha, Neb.

Here's some of a story that made the national Associated Press wire today, from MSNBC:

OMAHA, Neb. - Omaha police believed a 62-year-old man fatally shot his daughter, her husband and her two young sons before turning the gun on himself early Sunday.

Police responded to a radio call just before 1 a.m. and found five people shot inside a west Omaha home. All were dead except Jamie Lee, 26, who died later at a hospital.

Investigators believe Lee’s father, Richard Wilkinson, shot her and her family before committing suicide, police Sgt. Teresa Negron said.

We’re continuing the investigation to attempt to determine what occurred in that
residence,” said Negron.
KMTV television in Omaha picks up the story from there:

Neighbors tell Action 3 News they heard shots coming from the house and when police arrived, neighbors were asked to stay in their homes, "I heard people yelling, then my mom said she heard a gunshot and we all went outside and started looking and the police told us to get back in the house."

Late Sunday afternoon, Omaha police spokesman Officer Chuck Casey said this is now a murder-suicide investigation and they believe the owner of the home, Richard Wilkinson, killed his daughter, her husband and her two children. Friends of the family say there had been ongoing problems in the home, and Jamie Lee recently moved out with her family, but returned Saturday.

Darrell Lee is listed on Nebraska's Sex Offender Registry as a Level 3 Offender, who was twice convicted on sexual assault on a child.

(Video)

Hell on earth. It's not just a saying; it's what fallen humanity is capable of, what Satan desires of us, and it's what we refuse to acknowledge until it slaps us in the face.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Dear Diary: Dear Rage Against the Machine . . .

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's another in the occasional series of dispatches from the front lines of Catholic radio -- Pope FM.


* * *

TUESDAY, OCT. 30, 2001


Dear Diary,


I decided it would be unconscionable for me to bitch about the Keys to the Kingdom kids and not respond myself to the guy who E-mailed the show. So I did.


Here's the letter. I'm going to bed. It's late.


-- Me


* * *

Dear Rage Against the Machine,


Thanks for your question to
Keys to the Kingdom last evening. I thought it was a valid one, and it cuts to the very heart of Christianity. As a Pope FM staffer, I was in the control room for the show, and I thought that maybe the panelists gave answers that were a little more complicated, peripheral and long-winded than they needed to be.

Then again, I've got a few years on the kids, have been through the School of
Hard Knocks
and used to be in the newspaper business. I have a lot of years of experience at chiseling away bulls*** and cutting to the chase.

Bottom line:
What has God done for me lately?
The same thing He's done for you. Jesus Christ -- God come to earth, the second person of the Trinity -- has allowed himself to be insulted, tortured, beaten and hanged on a cross until He was dead. All this in order to be a perfect sacrifice to atone for all our sins, yours and mine (and I've committed some doozies in my life), so that we don't have to get what perfect
justice requires we have coming.

God, the Creator of the universe in the person of Jesus Christ, allowed Himself to be killed by His own creation because He was the only sacrifice good enough to make up for every s***, crappy, unspeakably awful thing that humanity had done, is doing or ever will do. And, as Catholics, we believe that one-time, perfect act of perfect love is brought into our presence, through time and space, at every Mass during the consecration. In that way, yes, giving His very life at Calvary is something Jesus has done for you lately.

Even now, it's hard for me to fathom that. My old man never cut me a bit of slack -- and nothing I ever did was good enough for him -- so I still have a hard time understanding that the Creator of the universe loved me so much he died so I might have everlasting life. He died for me. He rose again on the third day in a final conquest of death. And He waits for all the prodigal sons and daughters to come home, when He will wipe the slate clean.

Even so, we still suffer on this earth. The world still suffers from the effects of sin, and we suffer also. We have free will -- God loves us too much to make us mindless robots -- and that means we have the freedom to do what is wrong as well as what is right.

But that is here. Now. Because Christ died to atone for our sins, if we accept that great gift, the suffering one day will end for us and we will have eternal joy in the presence of our Savior.

And in that here-and-now suffering, God will grant us comfort and peace. He's the Father, brother and friend who doesn't care what you are but instead loves you BECAUSE you are. He's the one person who knows the most awful thing you've ever done and loves you despite it all.

So you're pissed off at God. Well, I've been pissed at God, too. So, tell God EXACTLY how pissed off you are. Tell Him you don't think he's done jack s*** for you. Ask Him what He has to say about that.

He's God. I think He can take it.

Then, listen to see exactly what He has to say about it.

You hate God. God loves you. I think you're getting the better end of the deal, frankly.

Listen, I don't know what parish you live in or even whether you're Catholic. But you're certainly welcome to come to our youth group at St. Matthew's most Sunday nights at 6:30. Our youth minister is a great guy.

And there's more than a few of us (alleged) adult volunteers who've been there, done that, got the T-shirt and by the grace of God lived to tell about it.

Just don't end up like my old man. He died of brain cancer in May at age 80, and he died a bitter and scared man. I still hear him on his death bed crying out -- just out of the blue -- "Lord have mercy." But I don't know that he really believed the Lord would have mercy. In other words, I fear he died without hope.

I'm not sure you fully understand what an awful thing that is. It haunts me.

In your heart of hearts, is that how you want to end up? You don't have to, you know.


God bless,

Me

Dear Diary: Life at Pope FM

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today, Revolution 21's Blog for the People starts an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio. The names aren't real, nor are the places, but the stories are -- and it's a snapshot picture of what happens when "Their zeal consumes them" meets "Sinners sacrifice for the institution, not vice versa."

In other words, there has to be a better way.

Here, then, is the first snapshot from Pope FM.


* * *

TUESDAY, OCT. 30, 2001


Dear Diary,


I was training some student "engineers" during tonight's Keys to the Kingdom, our teen call-in show at Pope FM.

The topic was vocations, and the archdiocesan vocations director was the guest. We received the following E-mail, which was not on topic, but was utterly foundational to the faith and to why Pope FM is supposed to exist (reprinted verbatim, typos and all):

Ok, number one, paschal access code? WTF? I just thought I'd 'shoot you an email'. Just heard about your program and thought Id give it a listen. I am looking for something more in my life, its either god or jack daniels and figured you could help. Before you tell me to accept god into my heart tell me, whats he done for you lately? He aint done jack s*** for me.

Oh the stories I could tell. So in short...here is a motto I love and believe in: If God hates you then just hate him back more . . . it works for me.

Rage Against the Machine

P.S. WHeres the cool music? No Butthole Surfers or Jesus Lizard? Break out the classics baby!



OUT OF THREE TEEN-AGERS
and the vocations director, not one gave him a clear, simple answer. Indeed, no one answered his question at all.

I nearly was jumping up and down in the control room, holding a dry-erase board with
"Jesus -- God -- willingly got on a cross and died for your sins, so that you might have everlasting life."

Then, I was holding up a sign with "John 3:16" on it. Still, no clear, simple answer.

The father of one of the student engineers was in the office, and I walked out to the lobby, despondent. Mr. Klause, a Lutheran, met me before I could say a word, saying
"They didn't answer his question!"

I told him what my answer would have been, and he agreed wholeheartedly. And I told the kids they absolutely had to have a short, clear answer to that sort of E-mail, because it was utterly foundational. E-mails like that are why we exist as a Catholic radio station, and if we have no answers, we might as well unplug the transmitter.

I don't think Mona, the 20-something producer, appreciated that. I'll probably hear about my "attitude" from the boss.

Tonight, I am deeply ashamed to be Catholic. No, ashamed isn't the right word. Just heartbroken.

I told the wife that probably eight out of 10 evangelical youth-group kids could have witnessed cogently to this guy.

I JUST WANT TO CRY AND NEVER STOP. In 65 years, this guy will be my old man on his deathbed. Virtually the last thing my father ever said to me was to ask me how much money I made.

I refused to tell him.


-- Me

Alcohol and pills . . . and the mystery of life


ON THE LATEST REVOLUTION 21 PODCAST, Fred Eaglesmith makes an important point in his song, Alcohol & Pills:
Alcohol and pills, it's a cryin' shame
You think they might have been happy with the glory and the fame
But fame doesn't take away the pain, it only pays the bills
And you wind up on alcohol and pills

I guess that's what happens sometimes when the mystery of life switches to the "suck" setting, and we just can't make sense of it all. Of course, like the song says, we certainly can make things even worse.

But what if we're not SUPPOSED to make complete sense of it? What if we're just supposed to hold onto the cross of Jesus, endure the bad, rejoice in the good and learn from all of it?

I'm just sayin'.

Seems to me, there isn't any hiding from the pain of life's hard knocks or plain tragedies. You can embrace the pain as Christ embraced the cross, then plow through it with His help.

Or, alternatively, you can hide from it by crawling into the bottle. Or try to dull it through better pharmaceuticals. Or distract yourself from it through stuff, or money, or sex, or notoriety . . . or any number of things.

But it's still there. And how's that working out for folks you know? Really.

Alcohol and pills, it's a cryin' shame
You think they might have been happy with the glory and the fame
But fame doesn't take away the pain, it only pays the bills
And you wind up on alcohol and pills

Seems to me there's a harder -- but better -- way.

I'm just sayin'.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Jesus saves

Now, if Simon Cowell had been the bank teller in this remarkable story, it could have gotten real ugly real fast. From the Opelousas (La.) Daily World:


PORT BARRE — A kiss on the hand and Jesus are credited with preventing a bank robbery in here Thursday morning.

Police are currently seeking a petite black woman, roughly 20 years of age, standing about 4 feet, 6 to 10 inches tall, who attempted to rob the Port Barre branch of the St. Landry Bank and Trust on Saizan Street just before 11 a.m.

The brown-eyed suspect was last seen wearing a blue, zippered sweater with her medium-black hair pulled back into a ponytail.

The suspect was last seen driving a fairly new model, small, black, hatch-back car, possibly a PT Cruiser or Ford Focus.

“The car was full of dirt and mud. The teller couldn’t read the license plate,” said Port Barre Police Chief David Richard.

Richard is alerting neighboring communities to be on the lookout for the woman and her car as he doesn’t believes the suspect is from the Port Barre area.

“We are a small town. If she had been form here, the tellers would have known her,” Richard said.

According to Richard, police received a 911 call at 10:54 a.m. about a person issuing worthless checks at the bank. As a police cruiser was on patrol in the area, the first officers were on the scene within seconds of receiving the call.

“When we arrived, we discovered it was an attempted robbery,” Richard said.

According to Richard, the suspect approached a teller at the bank and presented her with a note that read: “Give me $100s and $50. I have a gun and I will kill you.”

Richard said the teller told the suspect she couldn’t give her any money and that the police were on the way.

“The teller told the suspect that what she was doing was going to ruin her life,” Richard said. “She then gave the suspect a $20 bill out of her own pocket and told her Jesus loves her.”

According to Richard, the suspect then began to cry, kissed the teller’s hand and said she needed to hear that. She then left the bank.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

And the Lebanese civil war begins . . . again

From MSNBC:

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Government and opposition supporters clashed at a Beirut university campus Thursday, battering each other with sticks, stones and even pieces of furniture in new violence spilling over from Lebanon’s political crisis. Four people were killed, security sources told Reuters.

Two opposition students and two other people were shot dead and 100 were injured, many by gunfire, at Beirut's Arab University, the sources said.

Other news outlets reported at least two deaths and up to 35 people wounded in the clashes. NBN, an opposition-run television station, said two of the dead were students loyal to the opposition, which includes the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah and Amal groups.

Black smoke poured into the sky from cars engulfed in flames as armored vehicles full of troops moved in to try to keep the two sides apart. But the riot spread into the nearby streets around Beirut Arab University as students smashed parked cars and battled for hours.

The battle grew out out of a argument between pro-government Sunni Muslims and supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah opposition movement in the university cafeteria, students said.

As the melee grew, Hezbollah supporters called in help, and residents from the surrounding Sunni neighborhood joined in. Dozens of vigilantes wearing blue and red construction hats and carrying makeshift weapons — chair legs, pipes, garden tools, sticks and chains — converged on the university and started clashing with the police.

The army was called in with armored vehicles and fired tear gas and live fire in the air to disperse the crowd.

Earlier, Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV reported one of the Shiite group’s supporters was killed. Security officials could not confirm the death.

I'M NOT REALLY SURE what intelligent I can say about this, other than I wonder how long it will be before Georgius Caesar ignores the folly of Ronaldus Maximus 25 years past and sends American troops to Beirut.

Other than that, all I can say is the news goes down much better when you're listening to Diana Krall. Specifically, her When I Look in Your Eyes CD.

Declan MacManus is a lucky man. But then again, so am I.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Your call to Nineveh cannot be completed . . . .

Mark Shea writes today about the contratemps over Dinesh D'Souza's new book, The Enemy At Home:

I likewise think it pretty obvious that what any sensible Catholic who considers the problem must really say is that you cannot fight an inflamed spirituality like Radical Islam with the watery anemic spirituality that constitutes, say, Andrew Sullivan's vision of the Faith. What is necessary is a healthy spirituality: one that fully embodies not only a right understanding of God, but a right understanding of Man. In the end, only the Faith revealed by the one who is both fully God and fully man can do that.

Yep.

IN OTHER WORDS, something beats nothing every single time. Yes, it does.

I blogged on the subject here -- before the D'Souza blow-up -- last month.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Perverted 'art' = Art perverted


The perfect take on l'affaire "Boys will be boys and livestock will be nervous" resides here.

I am become Death: 2nd verse, same as the 1st

As Saints fans get back home, the accounts of how they were treated in Chicago just get more appalling. As in, the only way it could have gotten worse is an all-out pogrom of "The Other."

It would seem that what blows through the Windy City is an ill wind, indeed. Or, to put it in language even Mike Ditka could understand: What a bunch of a-holes!


From a story Monday evening on WAFB-TV in Baton Rouge:

One Saints fan says she has a memory she can't bleep out. This is what she says a Bears fan had to say at her hotel.

Susan Joly says a Bears fan said, "'Oh yeah, you thought Katrina was bad' and just really not giving them any chance to say, you know, the man lost his wife and child in Katrina and they were ragging him over that and it was just terrible."

Chicago: What a classy place. If you're some sort of clinically insane Klingon or something.

Really. When you're trying to instill in your children how to treat people, you might want to have them emulate that knuckle-dragger doing the Hurricane Katrina Rag to a man whose wife and child died in the storm.

And we talk about the wack jobs in the Middle East. As if we had any room . . . .

Monday, January 22, 2007

'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds'

What the hell is wrong with us?

Well . . . glad you asked.

I think J. Robert Oppenheimer didn't know how right he was almost 62 years ago, when he opened his mouth after the first atomic bomb blew its top in Alamogordo, N.M. Gazing upon the fireball and the mushroom cloud, Oppenheimer remembered a quote from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita:

Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

Today in the United States -- indeed, across most of what once was Christendom -- we have "become death, the destroyer of worlds." And that's without having set of a nuke in anger since 1945, though that well may change presently.

No, we kill babies in the womb. In our cities, we slaughter one another like market cattle. On our television and radio shows, and in our movies, we murder the human spirit and debase the human soul on a depressingly regular basis -- "reality TV" is one big freak show, and it has been for years.

Did I mention that a radio station in Sacramento, Calif., actually
killed a contestant in one of its twisted contests?

According to the Talmud, the books of ancient rabbinical commentary on Jewish scripture:

"Therefore man was created on his own, to teach you that whoever destroys one soul is regarded by the Torah as if he had destroyed a whole world and whoever saves one soul, is regarded as if he had saved a whole world.

(Mishna Sanhedrin 37a)

WHAT DOES THAT SAY about us moderns, aborting and debasing and murdering right here in the USA? Or (to bring this around to the topic of the day) what does this Talmudic insight say about Chicago Bears fans who would taunt New Orleans fans about the destruction of their city during Hurricane Katrina in 2005?

What does it say about someone who, in the name of a flippin' FOOTBALL GAME, would ask a Saints fan whether he lived in New Orleans, then comment "'Well, too bad you didn't drown"?

What kind of human being -- to use the term loosely -- wishes a complete stranger dead to his face? Over a football game.

What kind of a country do we live in? What kind of society have we created? This kind of behavior -- at Soldier Field, or (to be entirely fair) among drunken LSU football fans throwing beer bottles and cursing Tennessee faithful in September 2005 --
doesn't come out of nowhere.

Again, what the hell is wrong with us?

Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

And, mark my words, we are reaping what we have sown. And we will continue to reap that bitter harvest in spades.


(To see the WGNO video, click on the pictures.)

Learning nothing from Mrs. O'Leary's cow

"Well, I mean these guys have been taunting us about Katrina the entire time. In my section, somebody asked -- we had somebody ask me 'Oh, did you live down there?' I said 'Yeah, I had 11 feet of water in my house.'

"He said, 'Well, too bad you didn't drown,' and that guy has not been the exception. This has been going on before the game, during the game. I mean, these guys have been violent with our fans. You know, throwin' beers at people . . . ."



See the entire WGNO-TV report here on NOLA.com.

Da Jerks

Classy fans they got there at Soldier Field, as demonstrated by this picture from The Dead Pelican.

Go Colts!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

You can't make this stuff up. I know.
I tried to once, but it didn't work out.

Nope, not even a trivial matter like, uh . . . death can keep some people from being in that number when the Saints have a miracle season. Let's let the New Orleans Times-Picayune's inimitable Chris Rose tell all about it:

Wood Brown III was a lifelong Saints fan. The former president of the Louisiana Bar Association was the type of stubborn old codger who would stay in his seats, first at Tulane Stadium, then at the Dome, until the end of every game -- decades of crappy games -- despite the implorings from his two sons: "Please, Dad, can we leave now?"

"No," he would tell them. Something might happen."

We all know a million guys like this. The determined, delusional and unbreakable backbone of this community. Guys who stay in their seats and continue to believe against all odds.

As you well know, that elusive "something" that Wood Brown III -- who lived up to his name with his lifelong penchant for saying "knock on wood!" while rapping his forehead -- waited for all his life never happened over all those years. And now something has finally happened -- something big -- but it's too late for Wood.

Robbed of the ability to attend games several years ago because of Parkinson's disease, he finally succumbed to it this past May.

His body was cremated and his family planned to bury his urn in a plot at St. Joseph's Abbey in Covington last Saturday, Jan. 13, on what would have been Wood's 71st birthday.

"My brother and I had tickets to the game against the Eagles that night," Wood's son, Chuck Brown, told me this week. "I said: Wait a minute! We can't put dad in the ground while the Saints are still alive. He would have loved this!"

Thus, over their mother's halfhearted objection, the family did indeed bury Wood in his urn last weekend, but not before his sons dipped an empty tin from his favorite cigar brand -- Romeo y Julieta -- and scooped up a tube full of their dad's ashes.

"Mom wasn't real happy about this, but she let it happen," Chuck said. "The old man would have absolutely loved what is happening with this team. He waited his whole life for this moment. You can't discount that."

And so Chuck and his brother Clay brought their dad to the game last Saturday night at the Superdome. Wood Brown III was securely tamped into a cigar tube in Chuck's shirt pocket and when times got tense during the game, he and his brother would look at each other and say: "Knock on Wood!"

And that's what they would do, patting Chuck's breast pocket for luck. Other fans seated around them picked up on what was happening and pretty soon an entire section of fans was knocking on Wood and it must have worked because look what happened.

And here we are.

You just never know in what form you are going to encounter an American football fan gone crazy, in the back of a cab in Chicago or in some crazy dude's shirt pocket; the unlikeliest of people in the unlikeliest of places.

Currently, what's left of Wood Brown III is on the mantle at Chuck's mom's house, resting in the cigar tube on top of the playoff ticket stubs. He didn't make the trip to Chicago this week because, quite frankly, Chuck couldn't get the money together.

It costs a lot to do this, to be here. A whole lot. If I had known this story before I left, I would have offered to bring Wood with me because I'm pretty sure he's the kind of guy I would have liked -- although I do wonder how all that would go down at the airport security checkpoint.

Anyway. Too late now.

As for Miami, should that glorious day come, Chuck Brown says he'll see what resources he can manage.

"Maybe we'll hitch up the FEMA trailer and head south," he said. "That's something I could seriously consider. Because I sure would like my dad to see this."

OK, cher, dis is too much fun, yeah!

WHO DAT SAY DEY
GON' BEAT DEM SAINTS?
WHO DAT?! WHO DAT?!

Friday, January 19, 2007

How to tell the gifted 'You suck!'


Rod Dreher has a fascinating post over at Crunchy Cons surveying a series of OpinionJournal.com columns by Charles Murray on education and intelligence. I won't blather on about it here, for Rod does a more-than-reasonable job of blathering over on his blog.

HOWEVER . . . there's one point I'd like to make about Murray's last column, about the importance of properly educating America's gifted-and-talented students. Murray's right -- this is an incredibly important endeavor, and hardly a popular one.

It all goes back to populism. Populism has many positive attributes, and I'd have to (mostly) self-identify as a populist. It is, however, populism's pronounced Green Monster of envy that endangers any effort to allow the brilliant and the motivated to achieve their full potential as humans . . . or as future drivers of our economy, our sciences and our body politic.

That Green Monster, of course, produces the "Crab Bucket Syndrome."

The gifted are the crabs trying to climb out of the bucket and make it back to the water. The rest of our American society, by and large, is the majority of metaphorical crabs who find the bucket, all-in-all, mighty fine.

And here lies the rub. The "Bucket Is Fine" crabs resent the hell out of the "Must . . . Reach . . . Water" crabs, and they'll be damned if they're going to help the "Water" crabs reach their full potential of wetness.

As a matter of fact, they'll try their damnedest to pull the "smarty-pants" crabs back into the bucket.

I know this. To grow up academically gifted in Louisiana "back in the day" was to be well acquainted with the Crab Bucket Syndrome.

We who yearned for, and made it into, Baton Rouge Magnet High School universally were known to our "regular-school" confreres as "Maggots" and derided as freaks. Uppity.

We went to "The Maggot School."

I wonder how much of that kind of sentiment is at play nationwide. Says Murray in Thursday's column:

How assiduously does our federal government work to see that this precious raw material is properly developed? In 2006, the Department of Education spent about $84 billion. The only program to improve the education of the gifted got $9.6 million, one-hundredth of 1% of expenditures. In the 2007 budget, President Bush zeroed it out.

(snip)

We live in an age when it is unfashionable to talk about the special responsibility of being gifted, because to do so acknowledges inequality of ability, which is elitist, and inequality of responsibilities, which is also elitist. And so children who know they are smarter than the other kids tend, in a most human reaction, to think of themselves as superior to them. Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it. That among those obligations, the most important and most difficult is to aim not just at academic accomplishment, but at wisdom.
I also wonder how much some version of the Green Monster, the "Crab Bucket Syndrome" -- whatever you want to call it -- might be at play in the long physical deterioration of my alma mater, Baton Rouge Magnet High, into Third World . . . shall we say dishabille? And, brother, talk about speaking euphemistically . . . .

Let's just say it's the ghost of Huey Long giving The Man (to be) the ol' middle-finger salute. Just a decaying community's way of telling The Elite "You suck!"

Let's just say that's an outlandishly counterproductive thing to do in a state that, according to all the pertinent statistics, is on the bottom and still sinking. Today's scorned and neglected "student elites" are the people Beavis and Butthead will be counting on to pull their chestnuts out of the fire tomorrow.

But the "maggots" either will be long gone (to places where things generally work and people generally care) or giving some "Fickle Finger of Fate" salutes of their own.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lower. The. Boom.

The family of Jennifer Strange -- who died of water intoxication in a Sacramento radio station's "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest -- is suing. I hope they take Entercom's KDND 107.9 FM for every penny the broadcast chain has.


The family's lawyers are right: Enough is enough, and a message must be sent.

Now, we just need the local district attorney and the Federal Communications Commission to fall into line . . . and lower the boom. Is it really too much to expect radio stations, for example, not to hold their "customers" in such contempt that they help kill them off?

LOWER. THE. BOOM.

NOW.


"This family has been devastated by a shameful, irresponsible and negligent act of premeditated recklessness," said ROGER DREYER, senior partner of the SACRAMENTO law firm of DREYER, BABICH, BUCCOLA & CALLAHAM. "The station knew this was a dangerous and potentially deadly stunt, but flippantly dismissed the dangers. Now three young children have lost their mother, and their father has lost his wife, because a radio station wanted to boost its ratings and increase its advertising revenue by taking advantage of a young woman who simply wanted to win a prize for her family."

DREYER said the suit should be a "wake-up call" for other stations sponsoring similar stunts. "Outrageousness at any cost has become the industry standard -- the trashier and more humiliating, the better," he said. "It's time to stop this recklessness."

As ALL ACCESS reported yesterday (NET NEWS 1/17) the SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT is launching a criminal probe and formal investigation into the death because of the now-dismissed MORNING RAVE's on-air comments, which seem to indicate awareness of the dangers of drinking too much water.

"Hearing the tape, it's very clear they knew of the dangers and could foresee that this could lead to JENNIFER's death," DREYER said. "They knew the health risks of drinking too much water, they knew JENNIFER was feeling ill, and yet they let her leave the station without warning her to call someone for help or seek medical attention. Their brazen disregard for her personal safety is numbing and inexcusable."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Once, in college, I saw 'Becky' drink a pint
of Jungle Juice and freakin' pass out cold


(OK, there's an S-word in the video. You have been alerted.)


REVOLUTION 21 IS NOT "Safe for the Whole Family." Revolution 21 is not "Positive and Encouraging." Nor is Revolution 21 "The Positive Alternative."

If anything, Revolution 21's positioning statement probably could be "As Screwed Up as You Are, but Still Trying." I think that probably would be truer to the gospel than some of Christian radio's slogans . . . or Christian radio's on-air product.

And we don't claim to be a Christian radio station, nor do we play mostly Christian music. Revolution 21 is all about being both faithful to Christ and standing in solidarity with fallen humanity. Your humble Mighty Favog is not about being in the Christian-radio business; he is about being a Christian in the radio business.

Being a Christian in the radio biz is a hard thing to do. Particularly in an industry where the only bottom line is the bottom line, and where part of the job description is "living the lifestyle." And if you think the Christian/radio difficulty stops at the Evil Secular Radio (TM) border, you've got another think comin'.

In fact, for the Favog, trying to be a "Christian in the radio business" meant creating a whole new paradigm of committing radio. This after spending a few years in "Catholic radio" and having gotten a good gullet full of ensconcing oneself in an artificial Christian utopia.

Too often, the "utopia" of Christian radio -- at least in my experience of Catholic radio -- consists of pandering to people who too-often put piety over praxis -- and rubrics over redeeming love -- and then watching "utopia" become a dystopia where self-preservation and self-aggrandizement trumps living the gospel every time.

(And I say this as an orthodox Roman Catholic who loves punk rock but longs for a bit of chant, Latin and trancendance during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If I want to hear music written by failed lounge acts, I will go to the nearest tiki bar and order a double of something.)

THIS IS THE PERSPECTIVE I bring to Christian Music Today.com's ongoing series on the state of Christian radio, which I highly recommend.


The latest installment -- the second in the series -- is about Becky. What? You don't know Becky?

"Becky" is the late-thirtysomething, early-fortysomething soccer mom listening as she carts her brood to the day's Middle-Class Suburban Activities. Or on her way to her women's prayer group, I forget which.

"Becky" is the target demographic of adult-contemporary Christian radio, of "Safe for the Whole Family" fame. And much of Christian music radio falls into the adult-contemporary category.

From the article by Mark Geil:

The choice of a target audience is the result of many factors, and in this particular industry, the typical economic factors are mixed with the ministerial and the evangelical. Becky is certainly a good audience from the perspective of dollars and cents. She is in the car a lot, which means she listens to the radio a lot, which means she hears a lot of commercials. She also has buying power, creating a pleasing combination for advertisers.

Non-commercial stations like her too, because she recognizes the ministry of the station in her family's life and is quick to support it financially. Mainstream data support the choice. For example, during an average week, radio reaches 96.9 percent of women in Atlanta, far exceeding the reach of newspaper and television.

Still, some are dismayed that this singular attention to one demographic limits radio's ability to reach others for Christ.

"The gospel has no target demographic," notes
Derek Webb, who has admittedly given up efforts to get his songs played on Christian AC radio. He further suggests that because radio is targeting Becky, songwriters are too. "Anything Jesus is Lord of, our artists should be writing songs about it. We're only covering about 2 percent of it."

Shaun Groves, another artist who has experienced more radio airplay in the past than now, fears the approach of non-commercial stations in fundraising efforts might even be hypocritical. "The bulk of listeners are Christians," he says. "This is music by Christians for Christians, and that's great. It's a valuable ministry. The trouble is, Christian radio tells stories to make you feel they're evangelistic, but they're not. Say what you are. Don't lie to me and tell me I'm saving teenagers."

Another consequence of this target audience is dangerous. "Christian radio is a microcosm of the church, and often reflects the racial segregation that's present in the church," says veteran radio promotions executive Chris Hauser.

Hauser recently helped promote the
debut release from Ayiesha Woods, and had that perceived segregation in mind when developing a release strategy. "We circulated the single with no name and no photo, and simply called it the first single from the newest Gotee Records artist."

That song, "Happy," became the most added song on Christian AC radio on April 18. Although it is impossible to measure the impact of the promotion strategy, Woods is the first black female to hit with a non-ballad in recent memory.

Perhaps the most visible effect of Christian radio's choice of a specific target audience is the branding of radio stations.

"The 'Safe for the Family' message had a huge impact when the Salem stations adopted it a few years ago," notes an industry insider who wished to remain anonymous. At its most basic level, stations realized that Becky is often carpooling with the kids, so they made a point to ensure that she understands that nothing she hears on that station will offend her or negatively influence her children.

Salem's trademarked slogan for their Fish stations is "Safe for the Whole Family." K-LOVE calls itself "Positive and Encouraging." Air 1 is "The Positive Alternative," Tulsa's KXOJ is "Your Choice for the Family," while KCMS is Seattle's "Family-Friendly Radio Station."

(snip)

While many listeners applaud the unwavering shelter in what has become a dangerous radio landscape, it is the lyrical content implication that riles some in the industry. Groves has no qualms about stations that are safe for the family, but notes particular dissatisfaction with other branding.

"'Always upbeat and positive,' that's profaning God's name," he says. "Much of the Bible in neither upbeat nor positive. We can never make a station as big as God is, but we shouldn't limit him."Webb is equally outspoken.

"'Safe for the family' is a terrible and counterproductive slogan. If anything, artists are called to radical truth-telling, which can be very subversive, very dangerous. Artists should challenge what we believe. We can't be safe any more than Jesus was safe."

GOD BLESS Derek Webb and Shaun Groves, both for telling it like it is and for having integrity as musicians . . . at the expense of their checkbooks.

In an age desperately in need of evangelism, it would seem that Christian radio is about anything but. But to get that mammon rolling in, evangelism is what Christian radio is selling to the faithful.

And that's two barnyard epithets in one fell swoop . . . or is that one swell poop? It's both bull**** AND chicken****.

Neither represents "gospel values."

Finally, there are three phrases from my Catholic radio days that I never, EVER want to hear again:

1) "How can we do business here?"
2) "Catholic radio's not ready for that yet."
3) "Time to circle the wagons!"

(Who cares? The hell it isn't! Circle 'em yourself.)

Amen.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A corpse late and three motherless kids short

From The Associated Press:

SACRAMENTO - A Sacramento radio station fired 10 employees Tuesday, including its three morning disc jockeys, after a mother of three died following an on-air water-drinking contest last week at the station's studios.

The hosts of KDND-FM's "Morning Rave" - who go by the on-air names Trish, Maney and Lukas - were fired a day after the station announced it was suspending the show and investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Jennifer Lea Strange.

Strange, 28, died after participating in a water-drinking contest on the program.

She was one of about 18 contestants who tried to win a Nintendo Wii gaming console early Friday by seeing how much water they could drink without going to the bathroom. The show's DJs called the contest "Hold your Wee for a Wii."

John Geary, vice president and general manager of KDND parent company, Entercom/ Sacramento, made the announcement Tuesday in an e-mail to reporters.

"Effective immediately, the 'Morning Rave' program is canceled and ten employees are no longer with the station."

A company spokesman, Charles Sipkins, confirmed the three DJs, as well as two other on-air personalities, "Carter" and "Fester," were among those fired. Five other employees who worked on the "Morning Rave" also were let go. All 10 were fired, the spokesman said, for violating terms of their employee agreements.

The "Morning Rave" had been on the air for about five years and was one of the capital's top-ranked morning drive programs.

During the contest, participants were given two minutes to drink an 8-ounce bottle of water and then given another bottle to drink after a 10-minute break.

Fellow contestant James Ybarra said he quit drinking after imbibing eight bottles, but Strange, who placed second, and others kept going even after they were handed even larger containers.

In all, according to witness reports, Strange may have drunk nearly two gallons. Afterward, she appeared ill when she went on the air, one contestant said.

Following the contest, Strange called in sick to work. About five hours later she was found dead at her home.

OK, WE HAVE ESTABLISHED that excrement rolls downhill. We also have established that the GM is not falling on his sword, nor is Entercom (thus far) demanding that he do so.

Now . . . will the Federal Communications Commission take action when one of its licensees is pretty much acting as a Jack Kevorkian for the Dumb, but Not Yet Ready to Croak? If the FCC can't nail "The End's" end to the wall over this, why should anyone in the radio biz even try to obey the law?


Geary would not say which 10 employees were fired. However, a source at the station told News10 the program director, promotions director and the three morning DJs are among those who have lost their jobs.

"We're going to pull through," a woman who works at the station said. "(The mood) is pretty somber around here. The whole thing is just a tragedy."

Jennifer Strange, 28, was found dead in her Rancho Cordova home Friday. A preliminary coroner's report indicated Strange's death was consistent with a water intoxication death.

Strange had taken part in a contest at 107.9 titled "Hold Your Wee for a Nintendo Wii." The contestants drank bottles of water at 15 minute intervals. The last person to go to the bathroom would win a Nintendo gaming system.

Judy Linder, a nurse practitioner, said she was listening to the contest on her way to work on Friday. "I know how dangerous that is so when I got to work I asked if anybody wanted to be on the radio."

Linder said she and another co-worker called the station on speaker phone and were put on the air.

"She (her co-worker) told them it was dangerous and you could die from water intoxication."

Linder says the disc jockey "pretty much blew that off and said well they've signed a release.

"It wasn't until Sunday that Linder heard Strange had died. "I was totally shocked because they (the disc jockeys) had been warned but they should have known better anyway, they should have checked with someone before they did that, you know."

Linder says she wishes she could have done more to prevent Strange's death. "It's just a terrible, terrible thing. I feel terrible."

Strange's husband, William, did not want to comment about the firings but did say he has set up a fund to help with funeral expenses for his wife.

Donations to The Jennifer Strange Memorial Fund Account 3151089345 can be made at any Washington Mutual branch.

Former federal prosecutor Bill Portanova said Strange's family would likely have a solid case against the station. "On the face of it, the radio station has some serious liability exposure," said Portanova.

Portanova said the February 2005 death of a California State University, Chico student may be the station's undoing.

"Every newspaper outlet and radio outlet reported on it repeatedly where a young man at Chico State University drank himself to death with water so it's clear this radio station had some institutional knowledge that that was a possibility," said Portanova.

Portanova said if a lawsuit is filed, the station will likely settle quickly.