Showing posts with label Dear Diary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dear Diary. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dear Diary: Of Irishmen and their car bombs

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues 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.

This look back at my dysfunctional life at Pope FM requires a little stage setting.

In other words, it's all Josefina Loza's fault, what with her mentioning in the Omaha World-Herald that, indeed, there is such a drink as an "Irish Car Bomb," and that people,
you know . . . drink them.

This caused howls of protest from some members of the local Irish-American community, and a persistent mau-mauing campaign on the part of some local outfit, the Irish American Cultural Institute.

HERE'S PART of the story in today's World-Herald:
Today, when you're wearing your green, crawling through pubs and downing an Irish Car Bomb cocktail or two, here's something to keep in mind:

That drink will make some heads explode. And probably not yours.

The 31-year-old concoction made up of Guinness stout, Bailey's Irish Cream and Irish whiskey makes many traditional Irish-Americans crazy. They hate all it stands for: The name makes light of serious historical and current events, and the potent cocktail glorifies drinking on a holiday they say has somber significance.

St. Patrick's Day drinks described as Irish Car Bombs are “tasteless” and “culturally insensitive,” said Chuck Real of the Irish American Cultural Institute in Omaha. He was shocked that such a cocktail existed in Irish-American pubs. He also isn't happy that people make Irish Car Bomb cupcakes and cakes such as those featured on today's Living cover.

To Real, the name conjures up memories of unrest in Northern Ireland. Car bombs sometimes were the weapon of choice, and many believe that the Provisional Irish Republican Army was responsible. Bombings still occasionally happen Real cited three bomb threats in the past five years. They aren't funny, he said. They're lethal.

“St. Patrick's Day to the older generations and to those in Ireland has always been a day of obligation,” Real said.


After last week's reference to the drink, Real received a handful of calls and e-mails from members of his group. Kathleen McEvoy became so upset and short of breath that she had to use her oxygen tank to finish her conversation, he said.

“Don't you know that this could hurt people's feelings,” McEvoy, 80, later told The World-Herald. “It makes it seem that all Irish people were terrorists.”

What if cocktails were called “The 9-11” or “Afghan bomber,” she asked. “How would people feel then?”
I'LL TELL YOU how I feel now. I feel like I've just waded through one of the biggest piles of bulls*** I've ever encountered, what with all these Irish eyes a-cryin'.

No, a comparable argument here would be that al-Qaida or the Taliban would be upset if we named a drink for their proudest accomplishment. So long as the drink were a Shirley Temple, they'd probably be elated.

Basically, here, local Irishmen are playing the victim card because their long-lost cousins back in Ulster became so notorious for being al-Qaida before al-Qaida was al-Qaida that some enterprising Connecticut barkeep, back in 1979, named a concoction of Guinness, Irish cream and Irish whiskey after the Irish Republican Army's marquee weapon.

Remind me to shed a tear as I play the world's smallest violin in honor of bruised Irish sensibilities.

ANYWAY, that's the inspiration for this latest installment from my, er . . . interesting radio past at Pope FM, a time and place that seems like an alternate universe far, far away.

You won't believe it, but I swear to God it's true. The names, etc., have been changed . . . to protect the guilty.

MONDAY, FEB. 24, 2003

Dear Diary,

About a month or so ago, our program director, "Manic" Don
Lawlor (note the last name), cold-cocked me by dumping a phone call on me to schedule an interview taping. The call was from Mike O'Malley, local contact for the Irish Northern Aid Committee, which was sponsoring a fund-raiser for the Sacred Heart Girls Primary School in North Belfast.

"What is it about that group?" I recall thinking at the time, "It rings a bell." Anyway, Father Seamus Boyle, Passionist pastor of the parish, was going to be in Kansas City to receive an award from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and "the Irish Northern Aid Committee" was bringing him up here to raise money for his school, which you may remember was the focus of violent protests by Protestants, who were trying to keep the children from accessing the school through a Protestant neighborhood.

I smelled a rat somewhere, so I told the guy I'd tentatively pencil them in for today at 1 and refer the matter back to the program director.

So after I got off the phone, I did a Google search for the "Irish Northern Aid Committee" and came up with its more well-known moniker, Noraid. And various news items, etc., indicating that Noraid had been forced in the mid-'80s by the U.S. government to register as an American agent for the . . . IRA.

And that Noraid has been accused widely of funneling money and weapons directly to IRA terrorists. Etcetera, etcetera and so on and so on.

So, I dutifully printed all this stuff out, plus some background articles about the protests and told the program director, Manic Don, that Noraid stank to high heaven, was an IRA front, and that while Father Boyle and his school certainly were of interest, under no circumstances should there be an uncritical, PR puff-piece interview. I said that it might even be useful to include a Protestant churchman knowledgeable about Northern Ireland in the interview and turn it into a challenging dialog.

But under no circumstances, I said, should we be turned into an uncritical PR conduit for terrorist sympathizers and the ethnic and spiritual poison that breeds them.

Predictably, my idiot program director shoved all the cautionary material into a drawer and blew me off.

Fast forward to Friday. The Noraid flack shows up at the station unannounced and asks Manic Don whether the interview is still on. He says yes, and O'Malley, the Noraid flack, gives him a Noraid flier for the fundraising event, which Manic throws on my desk.

I come in to work a few minutes later, find this on my desk and very nearly blow a gasket. I write IRA on it in black magic marker and give it back to him, once again advising that we not allow IRA sympathizers uncritical PR on Pope FM, even though they've found a useful idiot to legitimize them in this beleaguered priest.

So, when I came into work today, I pretty much knew what I would have to do.

So, about 1:30, in comes the Noraid guy with Father Boyle in tow. I recognized him from TV and the Internet stories. Manic Don Lawlor and our development and public-relations director give them the nickel tour and go in to talk about the interview.

I hear Manic Don telling them that we "don't want to ruffle any feathers" and "don't want to get into politics."

So, after a while, Lawlor comes into my production room and starts setting up for the interview, trying to smooth things over with me by saying that they weren't going to get into politics but wanted to do the interview so as not to "insult the priest." He also said we might interview the Noraid guy to be polite, but that it "won't see the light of day." (Like I was about to believe this guy???)

I said the fact that Noraid was sponsoring the priest's visit couldn't be ignored, and asked what kind of "peace prize" was going to go to a priest who'd associated himself with reputed IRA gunrunners. I asked him whether the Hibernians would give Father a "peace prize" if he'd been protecting little Protestant girls from a Catholic mob, of which there were just as many in Ulster.

Finally, I told him that, in conscience, I could not and would not engineer for the interview, and that I already had enough to answer for before the Judgment Seat and didn't want to add that to the list. I also told him that, as a convert with Scots-Irish ancestors on my father's side by the name of McShane, IRA thugs probably had killed at least a few of my distant kin.

I then walked off, leaving Manic to engineer the interview (which would be conducted by our development guy) himself. So, I spent 30 or 45 minutes in the lobby talking to our contractor's foreman and our secretary, who seemed genuinely troubled when I told her the score. I added that if I were in Northern Ireland, I'd likely be dead meat if I crossed the Tiber (converted) in one direction or the other.

Later, Manic Don and our development guy complained to the GM about my refusal to engineer the interview. So the GM, Ken, tried to smooth things over and said the station might use the interview on our soon-to-be-resurrected talk show Living in Grace, but that they'd have one of our Irish diocesan priests on to talk about the situation in Northern Ireland.

I told him the same thing I'd told the program director, adding that as a convert, I thought I had a different and valuable take on the subject and that
, in the wake of 9/11, we should keep 10,000 miles away from any group that had any ties to terrorists past or present.

He then moved on to trying to allay some other concerns I'd had about our underwriting practices.

But then -- damn! -- he just had to go. So I caught him before he walked out the door and told him that by wanting to run that interview, we were in the political and moral quicksand now, and that any airing of that had to be as part of an honest, critical, hard-news look at the situation or I wasn't going to be having anything to do with that particular
Living in Grace, either.

He said he had to run, but that he'd "have a talk" with me about it.

I'll just bet.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dear Diary: Quo vadis, Domine?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues 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.

TUESDAY, NOV. 12, 2002

Dear Diary,

The other week in youth group, a couple of Catholic-school girls (I think they were Catholic-school lobotomized) were expressing grave doubts about the Real Presence. The next thing I knew, I was tracing the prefigurement of the Paschal sacrifice -- and the logic of consuming that sacrifice in a meal -- from the Last Supper to John 6:56 and all the way through the Old Testament from the Passover back to Abraham, Isaac and the ram caught in the brush.

And then I told one of the girls, "Don't take my word for it. Look it up for yourself."

Funny thing is, I knew all that was in my brain already, but I never really systematically looked at the Eucharist past the prefigurement in the Passover. Never.

I think the message was meant for me more than the unbelieving teen-ager: "You're not leaving the Catholic Church. You damn well can't leave the church."

Still . . . the lunacy just doesn't let up. In the Catholic Church or at Pope FM -- where for the first time I'm starting to fear a catastrophic spiral into oblivion. And feel that, no matter how much I might like to see the SOB crash and burn, I have to find a way to gently steer Manic Don away from a self-immolation that could incinerate EVERYTHING and everyone.

THE PROBLEM at Pope FM is pride and delusions of grandeur -- that the only way to serve the Lord and evangelize, evangelize, evangelize the universe into becoming the "right" kind of Catholics is to become some sort of corporate, Papist media empire of the upper Midwest. Folks are getting big heads, and the medium is becoming the message.

Unfortunately, actually taking care of business and simply being present to suffering souls is so mundane. No, what we want is a kind of Hollywood Catholicism, where it's so much more important to look good than be good. The rub, however, is that you live in a radio Hooterville, the phone is at the top of a utility pole and the carpenter who built your new studios is a woman named Ralph.

And it's all starting to fall apart.

Somehow, I'm getting past some of my anger at the whole mess and starting to feel like I just can't walk away from the cross here. Kind of a personal "Quo vadis, Domine?" moment.

OH, DID I mention our contractor did such a lousy job -- and that warnings from our engineers were so completely ignored -- that our new studios are anything but soundproof? In radio, that's a VERY bad thing. They'll be next to useless, and the work of the station will be significantly crippled.

All for the low, low cost of $100 grand or so. Perfect.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dear Diary: I inhabit M*A*S*H . . .
as told to O'Connor . . . by Fellini

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues 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.


Dear Diary,

Sometimes I think I inhabit a Midwestern sequel to A Confederacy of Dunces. Other times, I think it's Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins.

Today, I'm pretty sure I inhabit a revival of M*A*S*H. I am Hawkeye Pierce, and my new program director at Pope FM is a fat Frank Burns.

Manic Don is 35, ex-Coast Guard and has never gotten over it. He doesn't know jack excrement about radio but tries to act like he's God's gift to the airwaves.

He writes everything in military lingo, puts all times on the 24-hour clock, asks everyone whether everything's "5-by-5," and organizes (to use the term loosely) a tiny station staff like it's the Pacific Command.

He also specializes in trying to downplay his own glaring failures by trying to make others look worse.

And today he ordered me to reduce the time I spend on production work by 75 percent. All the while he desperately tries to foist the more tedious and mundane parts of his job description off on others (read: "me") . . . by fiat.

I called him on that once, in a very Southern manner (despite the fact that he has 100 pounds on me). Within two days, I got a new job description allowing him to do just that.

Two words: Captain Queeg. Furthermore, I refuse to tell the SOB what I did with his @#$!* strawberries.

I've been trying to hold on until he crashes and burns, but I don't know whether that will be possible. OK, Pope FM is M*A*S*H as written by Flannery O'Connor based on a storyline by Fellini.

I keep trying to remember that I once loved my job, and that it was supposed to be about Jesus. It sure as hell doesn't look like Jesus now. Egos, money and the general dysfunction in every aspect of Catholic life today have seen to that.

I'm damned good at what I do. Damned good. I thought I had found my calling in Catholic radio.

I guess I was wrong. Again.

-- Hawkeye Pierce

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dear Diary: The post 'Pledge-a-Thon' post

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.

SATURDAY, OCT. 26, 2002

Dear Diary,

The "Pledge-a-Thon" ended last night, raising roughly half of our stated goal of $250,000. Still, it was more money than we raised during the on-air portions of any previous Pledge-a-Thon.

I don't know what this means for the future at Pope FM, because God seems to be driving this situation like a Noo Yawk cabbie drives from La Guardia to midtown Manhattan when he's got a fare from Peoria in the car . . . by absolutely the most "direct" (heh) route possible.

All I do know is that I am absolutely, positively wiped. On top of everything, we spent today moving furniture out of my mother-in-law's apartment and into the assisted-living place.

NEVERTHELESS, it's a strange thing what happens when you just do your damn job the best you can when you would rather not do it at all.

I got nothing but compliments the whole Pledge-a-Thon . . . from the engineering of the show to the music I was playing (which would have -- and, in the past, had -- given my old boss, Mary, the next best thing to angina). You would have thought I was the Lou Gehrig of Catholic radio.

God, I'm old. Make that the Cal Ripken, Jr., of Catholic radio.

Thursday morning, our secretary, Penny, came into the control room bearing a large bottle of Rolaids and a kiss on the cheek. I wish she had come with a bottle of limoncello, too.

And all through the week, people would call in to ask the name and artist of songs I was playing. One was Ken the GM's 13-year-old son when I was playing some Christian techno music by Ultrabeat. Another was Ken's wife, who dropped into the control room to say she loved one song I played and thought the voice was familiar.

It was "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen.

AND FRIDAY NIGHT, after the Pledge-a-Thon ended, Ken came into the control room to shake my hand. Manic Don gave me a high five.

Kind of surreal, being that minutes before (the end of the Pledge-a-Thon bearing down on them) Manic Don and Fred the Development Guy -- you know, the one who believes in God expanding time -- sounded much like Catholic used-car salesmen in a desperate bid to get the phones to ring.

That always happens when fund drives are falling woefully short. I always find it dismissive of the providence of God and beneath Christian dignity. Therefore, I always go into my Zen-master mode, becoming more and more calm as the pitch-people become more and more frantic.

And I always try to send not-so-subtle messages to knock it off through forcing them to go to break, and through the music I play when they do.

This time, when the frenzy just was getting to be too much, I got them to go to break -- which Manic Don told me had to be a SHORT song. So I played all 5:35 of Aaron Thompson's "No More Fear." Thompson is a gifted Catholic singer-songwriter from Phoenix.

And at the end of the show, I played a chant version of the Kyrie, followed by Nicole C. Mullen's "Redeemer":

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
Who told the ocean you can only come this far?
Who showed the moon where to hide 'til evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my Redeemer lives

The very same God that spins things in orbit
He runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I'm broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer, He lives

To take away my shame
And He lives forever, I'll proclaim
That the payment for my sin
Was the precious life He gave
But now He's alive and
There's a new day

Now I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creation testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer, He lives

©2000 Wordspring Music/Lil 'JAS' Music/SESAC

MAYBE the wind has shifted at Pope FM. Then again . . . aw, who the hell knows.

Wearily yours,


Dear Diary: The blowup. No, really. . . .

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues 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.

THURSDAY, OCT. 24, 2002

Just a quick note before I collapse from exhaustion. But if the anthrax comes again, I'm covered . . . I'm on two weeks' worth of Levaquin, of the Cipro family.

Meanwhile, the "Pledge-a-Thon" proceeds apace. And my general manager seems to have had an epiphany after the new control room damn near self-destructed because of a defective wiring punch block. Our contract engineer went to punch in one set of wires for the air monitor, and . . . kerflooey. We were putting out nothing but the sounds of silence.

It was the first time I ever saw true panic in his eyes.

After he got the room back on line (precariously, warning us not to bump into the wall), I took the hour's break I got when we went to "Catholic Queries Live" (which originated the past two days from our unfinished new studios) to wire up the men's room . . . uh, old control room . . . the way I originally had it. I told the GM that was the only "Plan B" we had, and that no one had better touch it.

Today, he complimented me on the wisdom of my approach, said that Manic Don hadn't had a clue how much was involved in putting on the Pledge-a-Thon, that he was impressed with how I put all the pieces of the operation together and that he'd gotten several compliments on the music we were playing.

And some other board members complimented the show -- one saying his 13-year-old daughter told him Pope FM was sounding "like a real radio station."

Sometimes, the Lord sends His small consolations and vindications. He's a good guy.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dear Diary: Rope. End. Near.

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.

MONDAY, OCT. 21, 2002

Dear Diary,

I'm nearing the end of my rope, but I just can't quit without another job. I think divine intervention of some sort is needed . . . if only for my endurance.

I'm short on time, and I have to go to bed soon, being that I have to be at Pope FM by 6:15 or so in the morning for a 13-hour shift (every day for the rest of the week) during the "Pledge-a-Thon." To boot, a nasty chronic ailment has returned with a vengeance after several years' absence (after a several-year off-an-on run).

I JUST SENT the following note to a longtime volunteer -- the 25-year-old intern who was weeping in my office last week:


Be prepared. I have absolutely no idea what to expect tomorrow. I came to work today to find everything I had prepared in the present control room/men's room ripped apart with no good explanation, other than the engineers now thought they could get the new control room functioning "enough." Everyone seemed to think I should be happy about this.

They were still frantically working on it when the Missus came to get me after 7 to take me to the doctor. Manic Don still was revising and explaining the "run sheet" for the first day of the Pledge-a-Thon. The other days have yet to be scripted . . . and he is scripting everything to within an inch of its life.

I spent the entire day trying to decide whether to just quit . . . that and praying for enlightenment. But I decided I wouldn't give the Don the satisfaction.

So far, he's been working the other two interns like dogs.

Welcome to the new
Pope FM. Don't be sad, and don't be afraid. But do be prepared, and do be resolved. In all the wrong ways, Pope FM
is becoming incredibly close to "the real thing" in radio.

Hang in there. . . .
GOD HELP US at Levy Pants, Midwest Division.

-- Me

Dear Diary: Live . . . from the crapper

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues 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.

SATURDAY, OCT. 19, 2002

Dear Diary,

Well, the insanity continues apace at Levy Pants, Midwest Division. Pope FM, remember, equals Levy Pants in A Confederacy of Dunces.

Thursday, "The Triumvirate" (Ken, Fred the Development Guy and Manic Don) grudgingly admitted the reality of what I'd been telling them for a month -- our new studios wouldn't be ready for the "Pledge-a-Thon" this coming week. I'll be engineering it from the men's room.

No, really. The crapper. The head. The loo.

The Facilities.

See, right now, we have a cobbled together, temporary control room in what will be the men's room. The commode drain is there, but not the stool itself, or the sink, or the urinal. That would take up too much room, leaving none for the equipment. But the plumbing and the floor drain are all there -- complete with that certain je ne sais quoi . . . the intermittent fragrant hint of sewer gas.

CONTRARY TO THE OPINION of Fred the Development Guy, God did not "expand time."

I plugged a Behringer studio mixer into the borrowed control board we have, just to make it functional enough for me to engineer the Pledge-a-Thon with minimum hassles and give me enough inputs for a line feed from the makeshift interview studio and to run microphone cables to the phone room, which conveniently is just outside the men's room -- uh, CONTROL ROOM -- door.

But to make room for the volunteers and telephones, Manic Man, our fearless program director, had to move out of his temporary digs.

Where would he go? Where would he go?

Well, let's just say I ended up literally begging him and the GM not to move our temporary, jury-rigged and very precarious production room into a still under-construction space so Manic Man could take over the present room for his office . . . right now.

Did I mention all this was less than a week out from the Pledge-a-Thon?

ME, I THINK the Lord is a fan of A Confederacy of Dunces. And, as an added benefit, He is teaching me radical compassion for an intern I used to have little patience with but who was, fairly literally, crying on my shoulder Friday over her mistreatment by the Manic Mad Man of the Midwest. She referred to him as "a male chauvinist pig."

When you hear meek, charismatic-Catholic 25-year-old women use the term "male chauvinist pig," you absolutely KNOW he's probably worse than that, even.

Really, this guy is making a crapload of enemies real fast. And he's starting to make the wrong enemies. Or at least make them for the station.

I don't know what the Lord has in mind for all this, but I know in my heart it involves my stepping up to the plate to try to rally the troops and hold them together to weather the raging storm.

Taking to the factory floor
with a banner made of a . . .
a . . . an (ahem) bedsheet


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dear Diary: The Lord is my . . . WHAT?!?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio . . . Pope FM, if you will. 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.


Dear Diary,

I think, someday, this diary may turn into a book. The only roadblock to my turning the continuing saga of Pope FM into the next great American comedic novel is that A Confederacy of Dunces already has been written.

And, either fortuitously or tragically, I seem to have wandered into the real-life sequel, which is centered upon an exceedingly bizarre little Catholic radio station. Picture Pope FM this way: Hunter S. Thompson finds Jesus, joins the Catholic Church, buys WKRP and turns it into a religious station.

But he never kicks the pills and the booze.

This is the kind of surreal, whacked-out chaos that swirls about me, here in the great Midwest, as I huddle in my broken-down production room in a ramshackle little radio station. Apart from Jesus Christ, my salvation is the limoncello our secretary keeps in the break-room freezer.

If we were a Baptist radio station, I'd be sooooo screwed right now. . . .

WELL, IT'S BEEN an eventful couple of weeks since my last entry. Work has gotten so bizarre as to defy description.

"The Triumvirate" has entered into an unbreakable feedback loop, and Manic Don -- the program director, as well as the catalyst for the troika -- has just released an organizational plan in which all roads lead to himself. In the staff meeting where all this was unveiled, I found that, as production director, I don't even have the power to decide what I'm working on during any given day.

I told them not to insult me by letting me keep a meaningless title if I have that little control over what I do. The past two weeks, I have surprised even myself with the level of bluntness I've developed.

Don and the development guy kept saying that "station business" (i.e. underwriting and promos) had to take precedence over creating programming during business hours. I told them that evangelization was the station's business, and that Pope FM was not a commercial enterprise.

As was the case with Jimmy Swaggart, I am becoming increasingly and utterly convinced it's all about money, and it's all about us . . . not suffering souls in need of Jesus.

I swear to you, Catholics are the craziest bastards this side of the West Bank (of the Jordan, not the Mississippi).

THERE'S GOING TO BE a spectacular meltdown and/or explosion. I just can't decide whether I'm being called to view it from close up -- and perhaps be around to help pick up the pieces if I don't go up in the mushroom cloud -- or to view it from a safe distance.

Meanwhile, I had a voice mail the other day from a Baptist guy wanting to talk to a priest about possibly converting -- even though his wife is violently opposed to the Catholic Church. I forwarded his info to our secretary, asked about procedures for referrals and made a couple of suggestions about priests to put him in touch with.

Well, tonight after hours, I pick up the phone . . . and it's the same guy, asking about good reference books.

"You're the guy who left the voice mail, right?" I asked. He said that he was.

Had anyone from the station put him in contact with a priest or someone else?


So I suggested Father Hardon's Pocket Catechism as beginning reading, and I gave him the name and phone number of the priest who confirmed my wife and me. I also suggested that he just patiently answer his wife's questions or objections, but not to argue with her about it.

I figure God really wants this guy to be Catholic. Sometimes I wonder why, but that's not my call. Fortunately.

On another front, Manic Don of the Holy Humvee tried to dump building playback logs for the automation program on my already overloaded plate. Trouble is, that's not my yob, man. Not in my job description.

I told him my plate already was full and that automation programming wasn't in my job description but was in his. By the end of the day, I was handed a new job description.

Guess what it included?

It also included reclassifying me as "occupational/non-exempt" from "professional/ exempt." When I pointed that out to Don and Ken, the general manager, (in writing, for documentation purposes) and mentioned "overtime" (which would substantially increase my salary), let's just say an abrupt correction was made.

THE IMPROBABLE, unbelievable saga of My Life at Pope FM just keeps getting better and better. This translates to more and more incredible . . . in the sense of "You won't believe this s***!"

Once again, I remind myself -- and the world -- that, yes, it really happened. Likewise, I note that I'm about to be guilty of "burying the lede," but what am I gonna do? It's a diary, Diary.

Today at Levy Pants -- if I inhabit the sequel to A Confederacy of Dunces, this must be the Levy Pants factory -- I was tasked to clean up a Pope FM Update done by Don and Ken. The copy, written by . . . oh, you know who the hell wrote it, had the general manager introducing the Messiah -- um, Don -- as "part mad scientist, part creative genius and just plain sinner like the rest of us."

It's all very frat boy, you know. Well, that is if frat boys went around spouting phrases like "just plain sinner like the rest of us."

I could have tried -- futilely -- to naysay against such juvenile things going over the air. But what's the fun in that? I prefer to imagine certain board members hearing that through the static on their FM radios.

And in a Pledge-a-Thon promo I just finished tonight for the Lord of the Hummer, he took a "Star Wars" tack on fund raising. I looked and looked and looked for the voiceover for one part of the spot, but it wasn't there, so I just voiced the part myself.

I did, however, do some editing. Can you imagine how it might sound, through the static of our weak signal, if I had read the line as written, which began
"The Lord is our Master Vader . . . ."

Listen to that in your mind's ear. Imagine someone paying scant attention to our staticky broadcast.

"The Lord is our Master Vader . . . ."

I CAN SEE IT NOW. I drop dead, and somehow -- probably through a clerical error -- I end up in Heaven Itself, right in the middle of the Beatific Vision, and there He is.

Jesus Christ.

Right there in front of me.

Coming out of an adult bookstore.

I . . . don't . . . think . . . so.

But that's the less-than-beatific vision our listeners came thiiiiiis close to having as they listened to Pope FM over their morning bowl of Froot Loops.

Something tells me that the Froot Loops aren't just in our listeners' cereal bowls.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dear Diary: Humvees for Jesus

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio . . . Pope FM, if you will. 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.

MONDAY, SEPT. 23, 2002

Dear Diary,

I write with some trepidation about what posterity will think of this missive. For what I will think of this missive in future years.

I fear people might read this and think me delusional -- that something as bat-s*** crazy as what I'm about to put to figurative "paper" couldn't have happened, that I made it all up. Sometimes, I fear that I'll think the same thing in five or 10 years.

Note to posterity (and to my future self): You can't make this s*** up. You just can't.

Well, it's been a while since I've written, and things have changed quite a bit around Pope FM. Mary, our general manager, is gone to tackle running a chain of Catholic radio stations. Ken is running the show now, and he's going great guns to "corporatize" the place.

His mantra seems to be "How can we do some business here?" Funny, I didn't know non-profit Catholic radio -- or Catholic evangelization -- was "bidness." Silly me.

Too, we have a new program director. Actually, this is a new position. Before, Mary did the program-director thing as part of her general-manager duties, and I reported to her. Now I have an extremely manic -- and extremely odd -- middle manager to brighten my work experience.

This is gonna be a rough ride.

HERE, DEAR DIARY, is a vignette that (I think) illustrates the big picture. And you'll see the genesis of my "rough ride" assessment.

First, the new guy, Don, is driving everybody nuts -- except for the fast clique formed by him, the general manager and the development director. They all have five kids (the new guy's fifth is on the way), they're all around my age, they're all "Catholic and Damned Proud of It" (for lack of a better term) types, etc.

All I can say briefly is the direction of the station has turned 180 degrees in the blink of an eye. There has been wrenching change in the whole culture of the station in a week . . . manic would be an apt description, I think. Manic, just like (as I noted earlier) Don.

I mean, I am the voice of restraint at the place now. Don has about five years of pent-up ideas he's unleashing all at once and expecting to implement by the end of the year. With very limited resources to accomplish any of it . . . even after the technical expansion is complete.

Honestly, I desperately want to give the station a contemporary, non-dyspeptic sound. I desperately want to reach out to young people. But in such a short time, you can only do what you can do with the resources you have. And you have to be deliberate in what you're doing.

BUYING A HUMVEE, I don't think, can be described as exercising due deliberation.

That's right, ladies and germs, Don wants to get someone to donate the scratch for a Humvee -- the Pope FM Humvee -- which we then would have painted like the Vatican flag to play off the theme "The Church Militant."

I am the only convert left on the staff, and I can't convince these zealots how badly that might piss off people who have no clue what the Church Militant is. So much so that we wouldn't have the opportunity to explain it (and so much so that it might not make a difference when you do).

And then we will face the reaction of the Protestants. ;-) As a friend comments about such things, "Their zeal consumes them."

APART FROM the PR-nightmare possibilities, I can think of a lot neater things $35,000 could buy instead of a used Hummer.

On the up side, Don values creativity, allegedly likes Holy Spirit Rock and seems to have the capability of being collaborative. On the down side, I picked the wrong week to stop doing crystal meth.

Friday, the intern who produces Keys to the Kingdom came into our temporary production room, looking concerned and asking how I was. I told her I picked the wrong week to stop smoking crack.

She then, unprompted, blurts out "How can you STAND it!"

Metaphysically, I have NO IDEA what is going on here. All I can figure out is that God has some sort of Rube Goldberg plan in all this, which He is laughing Himself silly watching.

I'll submit here a memo I sent to the entire Pope FM staff right after Don laid the whole Humvees for Jesus thing on us. I am sure I am now looked upon in that peculiar way the manic-depressive looks at the Normal Affect Population when he's bouncing off the walls in a fit of giddy delirium.

That's right, I'm a party-pooper who Just Can't See. In the peculiar world of Catholic radio, I'm sure that makes me a Bad Catholic as well.

Anyway, here's the memo:

Dear all,

Before we go too far down the promotional and imaging road, perhaps we need to stop and put on Protestant or average-Joe Catholic glasses.

As this whole clerical sexual-abuse mess drags on and (probably) gets worse, it will have a tremendous impact on how Catholics evangelize and, indeed, relate to the larger society.

For example, I would never, in this climate, use “The Church Militant” as a promotional scheme or even subtext. I think many not-so-well catechized Catholics immediately would be turned off by the phrase, having misunderstood the use of the word “militant.” And Protestants would feel threatened . . . and not without justification. Trust me, a convert, on this.

Lord knows the station needs to be pepped up. Lord knows we need to vastly expand our programming efforts toward teen-agers and young adults. And Lord knows Catholic media needs to learn to relate to average people in compelling and effective ways.

But we have to realize that we are trying to evangelize for a Church that has some grave problems right now – gravely sinful problems at the highest levels in some cases. We are sinners, our priests are sinners, and some of our bishops are major-league sinners. It’s an unpleasant fact, but it IS a fact. And it is not without precedent in Catholic history, although that DOES NOT make it any easier to live through or cope with right now.

In this light, I think what we need to do is run the Humvee and “Church Militant” into a tree and walk forward into the greater community in humility, and in our humanity, proclaiming the Christ “who saved a wretch like me.”

If we can come up with the $35,000 or so that would buy a used Hummer, I would suggest buying a more cost-effective vehicle and using the excess to begin endowing efforts toward helping the underprivileged in town. At any rate, the whole issue is a serious discussion the PR committee and board needs to have. At least that’s my two cents’ worth.
A LOT OF GOOD that did.

I wandered out to the reception desk this afternoon, only to find a fishbowl on the counter with some change in it. In front of the fishbowl was Don's yellow-and-white model Hummer.

On the fishbowl is a sign: "Help the Humvee!"

I asked our secretary what the deal was. She got this bemused look, and said "Don told me to put this up here."

I hung my head.

Did I mention that he's "blown up" three computers -- crappy ones, yes, but three computers nonetheless -- trying to make them do God knows what? And I was at work until 12:30 a.m. Wednesday desperately trying to fix the WaveStation automation, which suffered a Challenger-scale "major malfunction." Well, at least short of literally exploding.

Don was nowhere to be found.

And now the station organizational chart officially has all roads leading to the program director. Except for the stuff he doesn't like to do. In the staff meeting where that loo-loo was unveiled, I reached new pinnacles of bluntness that I did not know I was capable of.

I picked the wrong week to quit chasing fistfuls of downers with bourbon.

Why are Catholics so bat-s*** crazy?

NOTE TO MY FUTURE SELF: No, you didn't make this up. It happened. It's completely whack, but it happened. I don't know how this Pope FM thing will shake out, but I hope you make it through all right.

Tell me, are you still Catholic?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dear Diary: The power of punk

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio . . . Pope FM, if you will. 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.

SUNDAY, AUG. 25, 2002

Dear Diary,

It had to happen. It hadn't happened in awhile.

I was working on Holy Spirit Rock early this afternoon, pulling some of the music for next Saturday's show, when I hear a knock on the door. Mrs. Favog was due back shortly with our almost-16-year-old friend Ruth, one of the co-hosts of the Pope FM show, and I thought she didn't want to bother with the key or had her hands full with groceries.

So I open the front door, and . . . .


You know, the bicycle guys. White shirts, black slacks. Name tags. A cross between Wally Cleaver and the Stepford Wives.

I'm Catholic, I say, but they won't stop the step-by-step spiel. I'm the production director at the Catholic radio station, I say, but that didn't make a dent. And I throw in that I'm really busy now working on our Christian rock show. They won't leave me alone, I really don't have time to talk to them and I really don't want to be rude.

At this point, Mrs. Favog comes home with Ruth. We're active in our church, she says. Would you like to come to our 11 a.m. service, they say. We'll be at our church, I respond. Can we come back? they persevere.

"So," asks Stepford Cleaver, "how did you come to your faith?"

"I became Catholic after studying the faith and searching," I replied.

"I came to my faith in the Lord through the Spirit," Stepford said.

"The Spirit has to have something to work with," I shot back.

Just at that moment, an eruption of grinding guitars and screamed vocals pours forth from the huge speakers in our living room, literally shaking the joint. It's the remote speakers from the amp in my home studio/office . . . Ruth has put in a hardcore Christian punk CD, and it's kind of cranked up.

The Mormons jump back from the door. Stepford is startled -- horrified even.

"I don't know how the Spirit could work with that playing," he says.

"Would you believe that's Christian music?" I politely answer.

Stepford is aghast.

"I can't picture Christ listening to that!"

"I can," I tell him as I shut the door.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dear Diary: The besieged Church is agin' everthin'

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues 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.


Dear Diary,

I didn't get home until about nine tonight . . . we're having our semiannual "Pledge-a-Thon" at Pope FM and I've been working from 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 every night.

BTW, today my boss and the development director, during one segment, got into this incredibly self-righteous sounding feedback loop of Orthodox Catholicism Against the Infidels, cracking on the "secular media" and its distortions about the Church, Catholics who don't know their faith, that "forces" would love to stop us in our mission, yadda yadda yadda.

I was in the control room doing a slow burn. Finally, I started to ratchet up the outro music -- giving them the hint to shut up -- and put on some CDs. Then I called the development guy into the control room, shut the door, told him I was telling him this because then was neither the time nor the place to get into a s***-slinging match with my boss, and then calmly let him have it with both barrels.

BASICALLY, I told him they were demonizing the media (and that the media for the most part had the Church's number down pat in the recent scandals), that they sounded incredibly self-righteous, and that if it didn't stop I was going to walk. I told him I knew I would be in a world of hurt if I did, but that it was a matter of conscience with me.

I added that what we needed to be saying was what we were FOR, not that we were poor Catholics being persecuted by the world.

Furthermore, I told him, what we needed to show people was love and humility because we were in no position to be arrogant.

To his credit, he listened and went to the chapel to pray on the matter. He came back and told me the message he got in prayer was to speak to what we believed in as Catholics and not worry about the rest. I don't know if he had a heart-to-heart with Mary about what I said, but the rest of the day went much better, with the exception of one repeat remark Mary made about the "forces." The development honcho was standing in the control room when she did, and I told him that the remark was overly cryptic, nebulous and that, frankly, (with the exception of Satan, who would like to see all evangelism fail) we weren't on enough people's radar screen for there to be a conspiracy against us.

Really, why does Catholic media have to come to this? And why do orthodox Catholics stand for this kind of counterproductive nonsense?

THERE WAS A TIME when I might have bought a lot of this -- and perhaps did buy a lot of this -- but I've been purged of it during the last year or so. Particularly after Sept. 11, when I got to see first-hand how ugly much of the Church's initial reaction to such a trauma could be.

It was either idiotic or Pharisaical, but not Christlike, I don't think.

I listen to how many contemporary, music-oriented evangelical stations that I listen to relate to the broader culture, and I'm envious . . . comparatively. I truly envy that aspect of the broader evangelical-Protestant spirituality -- the emphasis on hope, forgiveness and love. It's not that they're soft on sin -- it's just the emphasis on there being something BETTER than sin, that there is victory over sin and the death resulting from sin.

Orthodox Catholicism in so many quarters, however, just strikes me as stinking of its own peculiar version of the Nutso College-Campus Street Preacher Syndrome. Just all tied up in apologetics and doctrine.

Am I making any sense here? It's difficult to express what is so much a deep sense within the soul and heart.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Dear Diary: The Bilderberger conspiracy

EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues 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.

FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2002

Dear Diary,

You won't believe this. Actually, you will, being my diary and all. But I digress . . . .

The other day, the development guy -- fresh back from taking a bunch of big donors (and potential big donors) on a "pilgrimage" down to Total Catholic Radio Network's headquarters and shrine -- stopped in the production room to tell me about the trip. Particularly about this "great" presentation "Father Rafe" gave them.

You know, "standard" Catholic stuff about the move toward one-world government through history. He gave me an outline Father had put together on the subject, replete with an accounting of the conspiratorial machinations of the Bilderbergers and Masons and Trilateral Commission. (I don't know how the United Nations and black helicopters got left out, but there you go.)

The thought occurred to me that this never got mentioned in my religious instruction, or in the Catechism, or in any conciliar documents, or in most Catholic academic and social discourse . . . guess it's just special knowledge you get from Total Catholic Radio Network insiders. Anyway, he said it's interesting reading and that I ought to look it over in my spare time.

Well, I did. Enough to recognize standard wackadoodle John Birch Society boilerplate when I see it.

So, today the development guy comes back to see what I thought of Father Rafe's handiwork. Well, say I, it looks to me to be your standard Bircher conspiracy theorizing.

"But Father Rafe has been researching this for 50 years," he says.

"So have the Birchers," I reply.

What the hell kind of wacko Catholic world do I find myself in the middle of here? And THIS is the stripe of folk -- in general, I assume -- who have a hold of the reins of "orthodox" Catholic media in this country?

I keep telling my wife and close friends about the strange things going on in this peculiar world I inhabit, but no one will believe exactly how wacky it really is. They think I'm putting the worst interpretation on it. That is certainly possible, but the more and more I see, frankly, the less and less probable that becomes.

It absolutely appears that I have to get out of here, but not until I have another gig. While I am here, though, I am going to do whatever I can to counteract this crap, but I feel that I'm becoming more and more marginalized every day.

I know God must have some purpose in this but, thus far, He hasn't clued me in on what it is.