Busted Halo
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April 9th, 2003
Mister Rogers Helped Us All to Grow Up

I was talking with my wife recently about how someone
we know shelters her children. She protects her children from the daily tragedies that she encounters and controversy never enters her home. If someone calls with a problem that needs immediate attention, and the children are nearby, she informs the person that she “can’t talk now, because ‘Susie’ is here.”
I mention this because I worry this does more harm than good. Children certainly don’t need to be exposed to all the horrors that we adults encounter. But children eventually need to know how to deal with tragedy. They need to be able to sort out feelings of sadness, pain, regret, guilt, and even the feelings that surround…

April 9th, 2003
Billy Goats, the Bambino, and the Charlie Brown in All of Us

According to baseball superstition, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox are cursed. The Red Sox curse came in 1920, courtesy of Babe Ruth, the Bambino himself, whom the Sox sold to the Yankees so their owner could fund a theatre. The Sox had always gotten the best of the Yankees before that, but since the sale of Ruth … not so much.
The Cubs’ history is similar. In 1945, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern was prohibited from bringing his goat (believe it or not) to Wrigley Field for the World Series. He then placed a curse on the team saying that “if the goat can’t come to the game then the Cubs will never, ever win the World Series again.”
So far, the Babe and the Goat have the upper hand.
The more…

April 4th, 2003
Def Poetry Jam on Broadway

From ghetto to ghetto
In his 1990 essay “Can Poetry Matter?” Dana Gioia mourned the relegation of poetry to an “intellectual ghetto” where poets only write for other poets and the people languish on a diet of politician’s soundbites and US Magazine. In the decade since, Gioia has changed his elegy to a toast. This happy renaissance is due, in part, to the Spoken Word scene that brought poetry back to the actual ghettos in the form of “slams,” freeing it from university faculty lounges and infusing it with the fresh beats of break dancing Hip-Hop heads along the way.
Russell Simmons, the man who brought us Run DMC, Kurtis Blow , Martin Lawrence, Chris Tucker and others…

April 3rd, 2003
On the Job Where Columbia Should Have Landed

The space program is so flatly braided into my life that I use it as an alarm clock. When an orbiter (for that is the proper, NASA-ized name for the part of the space shuttle that carries astronauts about the earth) returns to Kennedy Space Center at the end of a mission, it rips two massive sonic booms across the face of Central Florida. The colonies of mobile homes clustered around Tampa Bay, the great golf ball of EPCOT, my little square of an apartment in Cape Canaveral: they all tremble before the engineering marvel that is man’s first reusable spacecraft.
I work in education at the Kennedy Space Center, and there is an awful sense of d?j? vu when I walk along the Astronaut Memorial and bend down to read letters…

April 2nd, 2003
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

This being my first year as a paying Sports Illustrated subscriber, I was watching my mailbox this week with a mixture of curiosity and indignance. It’s Swimsuit Issue Season, that dreary time of year between the Super Bowl and Opening Day when the bronzed, sultry airbrushed babes beckoning from warmer climates find their way into the eager hands of, uh, rabid sports fans.
I’ve seen the swimsuit issue for a number of years and the ensuing onslaught of letters that follow, some praising SI editors for “thawing the frozen tundra of winter,” and others lamenting that “this is not what we had in mind when we bought an SI subscription for our ten-year-old son.” The letter topics…

April 2nd, 2003
Satire of Our Overwrought Age Lamely Delivers

Anger Management is silly and funny and deserving of such small words. Director Peter Segal serves up a campy, if homophobic, reply to our therapeutic culture and the inordinate fear of a near-apocalypse that now fills our schools and airports and offices.

Adam Sandler is Dave Buznik, a meek “executive assistant” for a pet products company, who has spent the last two decades trying to blend in; still recovering from being de-pantsed just when he was about to kiss his dream girl back when Dukes of Hazzard were all that. His life is deeply dull, save for the bright brown eyes of Linda (Marisa Tomei), his devoted girlfriend.
While flying from his New York home to St. Louis, Dave is belittled in the usual fashion–his…

April 1st, 2003
Papal Residence Goes ‘the Way of the Fabulous'

The “Fab Five” have done a complete make-over of the Vatican this past week prompting His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to say, “It is as it was.” Carson Kressely the golden-locked fashion guru of the Fab 5 followed up with, “I guess that means that if one gay guy could make a masterpiece out of the Sistine Chapel then five gay guys can do a whiz bang job on the rest of the place.”
The Vatican—in colorKressley had petitioned the pope to “add a bit more color to his papal wardrobe, white is so 1984.” He’s brought out a new Papal Purple Cape, soon to be on sale at Target for the general public. “You too can be infallibly dressed,” says Kressley.
Thom…

March 28th, 2003
Scripture Reflections for Sundays in Lent

Readings:
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

We’ve all seen him. The crazy guy at a football game wearing a rainbow wig and holding the John 3:16 sign. Why he picked that particular passage, or why he figured the rainbow wig was the right “hook” to spread the Gospel, only God knows.
And John 3:16 is such a random passage to be reminded of at a football game, anyway: “That God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
You’d think the proper Biblical passage
at a football game would be something more inspirational like, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished…

March 19th, 2003
Reluctant Saint: Francis of Assisi

Sex, drugs, and mandolins. That pretty much describes the first half of Francis of Assisi’s life, says best-selling author David Spoto.
His book, Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi premieres as a TV special Palm Sunday, April 13, 7-8 p.m. EDT (check local listings) on cable’s Hallmark Channel .
Born in 1182 into a wealthy Italian textile family, Francis “spent half his life as a rather disgraceful playboy. Stranger to no excess, he began to experience a series of graces which began his conversion,” Spoto recently told a Los Angeles audience. The author has also written biographies about Alfred Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman, Tennessee Williams, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.…

March 19th, 2003
The 26-Year-Old Buddhist Nun and Activist Won't Be Silent

Type Ngawang Sangdrol’s name into any Internet search engine and prepare to be bombarded. A quick Google hunt reveals over 2800 web pages carrying her name?with good reason. Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan Buddhist nun and Tibetan independence activist, was for a time China’s longest-serving female political prisoner. Before her October 2002 release on medical grounds, Sangdrol had spent 13 years in a Chinese jail. She is now 26 years old.
Sangdrol’s activism started young. In 1990, at age 13, she and other Buddhist nuns were arrested in Lhasa, Tibet for peacefully protesting against the Chinese. During her first few months of incarceration, Sangdrol was beaten so often that she sustained…

March 18th, 2003
Jesus Was Voted Out Too

Bless me, Father , for I am about to draw a connection between Your Son’s Passion-the story of his suffering and death read in Catholic and other churches this Sunday, Palm Sunday -and a “reality” TV show.
No, not Fear Factor, although it wouldn’t be hard to make a case for it. No, the show is Survivor, and the connection is to Roger , a guy who was recently cast off the island at the hands of a few of his so-called “friends” and several of those whom he irritated immensely.
The player is played…
Roger was a man’s man. A leader. He worked tirelessly to accomplish the goals of the tribe, and he pushed those who were on his side pretty hard. Sometimes too hard, and that may have been

March 10th, 2003
Does the Glamour of Evil Make It Easier to Believe In?

I am going to break one of my own writing rules here, and turn to Hollywood for wisdom:
“Why,” said George Burns, representing God, “is it so easy to believe in that movie about exorcism, and not believe in me? All she did was spit out some pea soup, and suddenly everybody’s talking about the devil.”
Well�evil, at least on the surface, is cool. Hit the true crimes section of any bookstore: We cannot get enough of guts and guns and rape. Hanging around with Ned Flanders , on the other hand, is the quickest ticket to the non-invite list. Witchcraft, Satan, possession, hell�these are things not discussed in polite company, and we are therefore endlessly fascinated.
Back in the fall,…

March 1st, 2003
Life Goes on in Bracketville in Tough Times

Bracketology 101
I was introduced to the magic and ritual of March Madness in my grade school years. During tournament time, my dad would take my siblings and me to McDonald’s for breakfast before school and we’d devour our Egg McMuffins along with the USA Today sports page. We perused the brackets and my dad would explain the seedings, the selection process, the regions, and the NIT. At those breakfasts I learned enough about basketball to carry me through my adult years, when I didn’t have time to read Sports Illustrated cover-to-cover anymore and my work schedule interfered with watching the tournament games.
Studies in contrast
This year, I watched the part of the bracket pairings on TV.…

February 26th, 2003
Toni Smith's Silent Protest Dares to Offend

March is nearly upon us, as is the brink of war. Usually when I think of March I tend to think of college basketball and March Madness, also known as the NCAA’s basketball tournament. However, at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, the winds of war are colliding with the swish of the nets.
Toni Smith, a senior guard on the Manhattanville College women’s basketball team has been refusing to face the flag during the national anthem, a silent protest that has been met by a much louder response, both positive and negative. Smith has given the impending war in Iraq as a reason for her protest.
In a statement made after a recent game Smith said, “A lot of people blindly stand up and salute the flag,…

February 20th, 2003
Cinematic Evil and the Real Thing

One weekend afternoon when I was a kid, the 1958 film The Blob came on TV. Maybe my mother shouldn’t have let me watch it. That scene where the terrified crush of young patrons spills from the movie theater, the murderous blob oozing after them, became one of my earliest movie memories.
The blob was so grisly and unstoppable. It made me very uneasy. What would people do if something like that really happened? How would we all get away?
I watched a lot of horror movies when I was young, saw hours of pretend evil. I absorbed the catalogue of cinematic monsters and all the different ways they did their victims in. There were the guys like Freddy and Jason, slashing and hacking and stabbing, and never really being dead.…

January 15th, 2003
Leaving the Field and Stalling on the Couch

Every January, millions of Americans, as well as millions around the world, will come together in homes, bars, and clubs to celebrate what is called the
greatest sporting event of the year
. Of course I am talking about the Super Bowl , that annual display of athleticism where 80 conditioned men put their hearts and souls into a game they love, all the while being watched by millions upon millions of people, many of whom probably could not tell you the last time they themselves picked up any ball, let alone a football.
That is the great irony of the Super Bowl. While bringing together the best two teams of athletes that the NFL can produce (at least during this particular year), showcasing their talent and abilities, the…

January 9th, 2003
Is "Joe Millionaire" for real?

I hate reality TV.
I think reality TV creators pander to the lowest common denominator so often that I’d rather sit and eat paste with kindergarten children than watch one more minute of Survivor: Thailand (Elmer’s is particularly tasty, by the way).
I particularly don’t like what I call the desperation reality shows. Shows like The Bachelor, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-millionaire?, and Blind Date prey on those desperate for attention, be it desperate attention from the opposite sex, or craving those fifteen minutes of fame.
In a recent America Online survey a majority of people found cast members of reality TV shows “embarrassing.” I can’t say I disagree. However, I…

January 1st, 2003
The Humanity of Patty Griffin's Musical World

Opening Patty Griffin’s newest album Mil Besos (“1000 Kisses”) was like opening a book that I wanted to read in one sitting. And I did. I cued the CD player, wrestled the booklet from its case, and opened to the lyrics of the first song, listening until the album was through.
Griffin writes words that make her listeners pay careful attention as she gives voice to stories of quiet pain and dignity. She inhabits the heartbroken, the misunderstood, the lost, the lonely, the unabashedly lovesick, the vulnerable, and the grieving; and renders them proud and unforgettable. She does so with striking melodies and beautiful instrumentation. She makes me cry. She makes me fantasize about accordion…

December 9th, 2002
Old Holiday Cartoon Specials and Materialist Madness

I will be the first to admit that when it comes to Christmas, I am one big, wishy-washy mess. Christmas, to me, is what Disney World is to some other adults—a time and place where I become a kid again. In that spirit, I celebrate as if I were still running around in my pajamas with the feet and licking the 22-cent stamp for my letter to Santa.
As part of the return-to-my-childhood Yuletide traditions, I like to throw on some flannel pajamas, make some hot cocoa, and dig out the old videotape of Christmas cartoons that has collected a little dust during the past year.
This year, as I curled up and warmed my hands on my reindeer mug, I had a new thought: What lessons are taught in these cartoons? Will I want my kids to watch them?…

December 4th, 2002
The Emperor's Club Laments Moral Emptiness Among the Elites

“How will history remember you?”
That is the question that Mr. Hundert (Kevin Kline ) puts to the boys of St. Benedict’s Prep School in his classics classroom. He asks himself the same question when he meets these students again 25 years later.
The secondary question is: “Does history give us an accurate picture of those it remembers, or are only accomplishments recalled without regard to how they are achieved?”
No Dead Poets hereFor those of you who think this movie is a continuation of Dead Poets Society, you could not be further from the truth. Both tell the story of an inspiring prep school teacher, but that is where the comparisons end. Hundert teaches character along with history…

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