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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…

November 26th, 2002
A Lesson in Checking Your Nostalgia

Yes, it’s official. Freddy’s dead. That’s what I said. This is the story of how I was painfully notified.
I was planning to call my cousin Jim to wish him Happy Birthday. Rather than do something traditional, like yawn through the garden-variety version of “Happy Birthday,” I thought it would be better to sing it like Fred Flinstone’s Water Buffalo lodge buddies sang “Happy Anniversary” to him and Wilma. Surely you recall that episode? It went a little something like this:
“Happy anni-versa-ry. Happy anni-versa-ry. Happy anni-versa-ry. Ha-ppy anniversary. Happy happy happy happy happy anniversary. Happy happy happy happy happy anniversary.…

November 3rd, 2002
Salma Hayek as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in Julie Taymor's Mesmerizing Film

Salma Hayek beautifully portrays the joys and anguish of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in Frida (Miramax).
The film reveals the gutsy-ness, persistence, brilliance, and pain of one of Mexico’s most renowned artists.
A promising and charming 18-year-old university student, Frida’s life takes an unexpected tragic turn when a 1925 trolley crash leaves her spine broken and leg mangled. Up to her chest in a body cast, her family is uncertain Frida will ever walk again. Determined to live?even from the confines of her bed?Frida energetically paints self-portraits by looking into a mirror her parents rig for her.
In time she succeeds in walking again. And soon Frida persuades established muralist Diego…

October 31st, 2002
The Redemption of Jack O'Lantern: A Fable

Jack O’Lantern sat in the glow of Hell’s ember, carving yet one more pumpkin in replacement of the rotting moldy one currently housing the Devil’s coal. Having been rejected by Heaven and doomed by Hell, Jack had walked the Darkness between them for uncountable years with only the light from Hell’s fire to guide his way. He had lost his soul, but he still retained the gift God gave him—his artistic talent.
Over the years his pumpkin lanterns grew devastatingly beautiful, but Jack couldn’t see it. So instead, his astounding artistry contined to be displayed in the toilet paper designs left on neighborhood trees and in the spray paint designs covering the windows of local businesses.…

September 17th, 2002
Springsteen Finds Music for Our 9/11 Grief in "The Rising"

<img src=”http://www.bustedhalo.com/pictures/homePhoto.jpg” alt=”” border=”0″ class=”picright”>
<blockquote>”Coffee cups on the counter / jackets on the chair
Papers on the doorstep / but you’re not there
Everything is everything / Everything is everything
But you’re missing.”
—”You’re Missing”</blockquote>
Though the biggest fan of the Boss in my family is my 62-year-old mother, I still came to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” predisposed to like it. I was not disappointed.
What is it with this guy? His voice always sounds like he just woke up. Song…

September 14th, 2002
Why I Am a Catholic by Garry Wills

Garry Wills was shocked. After the publication of his best-selling book Papal Sin , which documents recent papal shortcomings, Wills not only received the expected letters from angry Catholics demanding he leave the Church, but he also received letters from confused Catholics interested in how to remain faithful despite a flawed Church authority. Readers, it seemed, weren’t content with the Vatican but worried about being critical. Could they be critical? They asked for Wills’ insight.
Why I Am A Catholic is Wills’ response. It’s a three-pronged discussion that acts as both a memoir and follow up to Papal Sin . Wills reminisces about his Catholic upbringing, offers a papal history…

September 10th, 2002
More Guts Than Blood in Red Dragon

I once had a roommate who disapproved of me watching the X-Files. You know, because of all the murdering, and that creepy music. She would glide past the TV Sunday nights gently tsk-tsking, and recite a Bible verse, or at least part of one, about God “not giving us a spirit of fear” (Romans 8:15 ). Meaning that choosing to be afraid was wrong, even when only pretend, and for fun.
I guess I shouldn’t have seen Red Dragon then, what with its cannibalism and blood spatter. Actually, and good for it, this Silence of the Lambs “prequel” spares us the gratuitous violence as it tells that tale we’ve heard before: the haunted FBI agent tracks a cutely nicknamed serial killer, with help…

September 1st, 2002
Sounding Off As a Nation

Friday night, 7 p.m., Central time. I’m sitting in my favorite chair, anxiously staring at my radio, when those familiar words come through the air: ” From WBEZ Chicago?and Public Radio International ?it’s This American Life . I’m Ira Glass.”
Have you heard this show? I stumbled upon it accidentally, when surfing the far left end of the radio dial, and I have been laughing and musing ever since. Each week the show profiles regular Americans, just like you and me, and tells their stories. Okay, most of them are nothing like you or me (at least they’re not like me), but that doesn’t stop me from finding them fascinating.
Every TAL show has a theme and they offer several stories…

August 17th, 2002
Lessons from Trash TV

“Anna Nicole Smith is busting out with a wild new reality sitcom. It’s the place where pop culture and cleavage converge, so tune in and stay abreast of Anna Nicole’s big adventures.”
– Program description from e! Channel Web site
Although the program description above says it all, there are really only two points to make about the new “hard-to-believe-this-is-really-someone’s-reality” show “Anna Nicole,” which premiered on the E! Channel recently, and received the network’s highest ratings. Ever.
Main Point Number One: we don’t have to watch it.
Well, actually, I DO have to watch it. How else would I be able to help my loyal…

July 5th, 2002
The Importance of Being Real

At the movies, do you stay until all the credits have rolled by?
Everyone knows that behind-the-scenes folks in the movie industry get the short end of the stick. Directors and producers are not (for the most part) the household names that actors are. The recently released film Simone takes on the inflated sense the public has of movie stars and the value we place on fame in our society.
Al Pacino plays film director Stanley Turansky, all washed up after several bombs. His last chance is in big trouble when the star actress walks out claiming he’s impossible to work with. Because of his reputation Turansky can’t get any other actress as a replacement and it appears his career is over.
Enter Hank. A computer…

June 5th, 2002

“Do not bother to adjust your (TV) set. We control the vertical. We control the horizontal.”
-cheesy , deep-voiced narrator on “The Outer Limits.”
Ever see that old show, “The Outer Limits”? Basically, it’s a poor man’s “Twilight Zone ” (now there was a show!). The intro for The Outer Limits begins with a narrator who says this mumbo jumbo about controlling your TV set, while a bunch of wavy lines appear on your screen. Mr. Cheesy goes on to say that any attempt to adjust the picture on your screen is fruitless, and then what follows is a bad, poorly-acted, black-and-white “suspense” show. Basically, the narrator is announcing the…

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