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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…

May 19th, 2002

“Waiting for Star Wars is an art project designed to capture the evolution and journey of one person’s wait for a single event?”
– Jeff Tweiten and John Guth, two guys who waited four and one-half months in line for Star Wars Episode II.
This article is about fanaticism. Or should I say extreme behavior? Dare I say?insanity? Of course, I’m not talking about the type of fanaticism which would cause one person to harm another. We all know that’s wrong. I’m talking about taking a simple interest, nurturing it, feeding it, until ? before you know it ? it grows into it’s own potentially frightening entity with a mind, heart and soul all its own.
If you’re lucky,…

May 15th, 2002

Having once been a “Johnist”, I’ve recently converted and become a “Paulist.” No, not that kind of Paulist. I’ve always been a huge Beatles fan. So recently, when I took my son to see Paul McCartney at the Pond in Anaheim, California, I knew that this was likely to be the closest I’d ever get to a Beatles concert. For that reason alone, it was going to be a religious experience for me. I just never thought I’d enjoy it as much as I did.
For quite a while, I’ve been wanting to crash a concert. Whenever I go to a show, there always seems
to be people selling extra tickets. Even though the Paul McCartney show was sold out and it was the last date he was playing in my area,…

May 1st, 2002

“I’ll be right here.”
- E.T. to Elliot before blasting off for home
“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
-Jesus to his disciples, before blasting off for heaven
So E.T. is twenty years old. That face. Those eyes. It seems like he hasn’t aged a bit. In fact, with his new facelift, he’s even more spry than ever. If this Web site was www.nra.org, the site for the National Rifle Association, we might be discussing how wrong it was for the director, Steven Spielberg, to digitally turn some of the guns in the film into walkie-talkies (he was concerned it wasn’t suitable for the kiddies, although, interestingly enough, he did think it was okay to have Elliot,…

April 20th, 2002

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”
A line by Russell Crowe’s Maximus before going into battle in Gladiator
By now you have surely heard of The Osbournes, MTV’s new show all about the life of musician Ozzy Osbourne and his family. Here’s how MTV describes the show:
“The Cleavers, the Bradys, the Cosbys?and now the Osbournes. It’s the next generation of family-oriented sitcom, a reality-based comedy that follows the lives of Ozzy Osbourne and his family. There’s no script, the situations are real, the family is normal?well, sort of. (Watch) the First Family of Rock and Roll welcoming you to their world.”
When I set out to watch the show so I could…

April 18th, 2002

On one level “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (IFC Films) as directed by Alfonso Cuaron is funny, racy, and sexy with scenes shot on some of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches.
The movie is a fantasy tale about the exuberance and excesses of youth as depicted when two friends Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) go on a road trip to the beach with Luisa (Maribel Verdi), the wife of Tenoch’s cousin, who is leaving her intellectual writer husband because of his infidelity.
The lure of watching pretty explicit and sometimes forbidden sex scenes on the screen apparently transcends the difficulties people have with English subtitles, as the movie is drawing big audiences for a foreign film.…

April 2nd, 2002

The edgiest character on TV these days is a sponge. He’s SpongeBob Squarepants and if you’ve never seen or heard of him, I strongly recommend you check out this creative, cutting-edge cartoon on the Nickelodeon cable network.
Before I explain why he’s so edgy, perhaps a brief introduction is in order, for those late arrivals to the Squarepants party. Allow me to loosely quote from his theme song: SpongeBob is a buck-toothed, rectangular-shaped character who “lives in a pineapple under the sea.” He’s “absorbent, yellow and porous,” and he fills his hometown, Bikini Bottom, with “nautical nonsense.”
SpongeBob’s pants are square,…

April 2nd, 2002
Enjoy The Da Vinci Code But Don't Believe It

Bookworm friends said they couldn’t put it down. More traditional Catholics excoriated it, calling it anti-Catholic. And good New York conspiracy nuts were declaring in the diner where I eat on Wednesday mornings that it was all absolutely true.
What could I do but read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code ? Hungry reader that I am, I engulfed it. As a concerned priest?yet averagely gossipy and intensely skeptical person?I had a more complicated reaction to the book.
Can you keep a secret?
There are limits to what anyone can believe. The basic premise of Brown’s novel is that the clandestine Priory of Sion has been guarding the location of the Holy Grail in unbroken succession from the time of the Crusades…

March 28th, 2002
A Generation of More "Realistic" Computer Games

Virtual AmericaConstruct your own “virtual neighborhood” where hundreds of clones of Sam Walton, Michael Eisner, and Rupert Murdoch compete inside a gated community. Play as one of the three and set sales quotas for products that an army of immigrants, who toil underground for minimum wage, will want to buy. Caution: not for sale in Mexican border towns.
BustedEstablish a thriving medical practice in breast enlargement. In timed relays you must discover new and expensive ways to create the “perfect breast”—one that defies gravity and time. Craft the perfect breast and win an all expense cyber trip to sunny Beverly Hills. But be careful: ruin a breast and you get sent to Grenada…

March 9th, 2002

Quilts, like all big projects, eventually become metaphors. It’s no surprise; quilts, like life, are enormous undertakings that should only be started after much careful consideration and, possibly, alcohol. Certainly, I knew how much work would be involved in making my first quilt?my mother’s entire existence seems consumed by her passion for the art form?but I ploughed ahead anyway, without forethought, without booze. Quilting, I figured, is just time, patience, and effort. Surely, with my husband’s help, I’d pump out a blanket with energy to spare.
Steve knew better.
“You’ll have to measure a lot?and keep everything straight.”
“No problem. I…

March 1st, 2002
Film Review: Signs

“There are two kinds of people in this world,” says Graham, the ex-Episcopalian priest played by Mel Gibson in Signs, the new thriller from Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan. There are those, the widower and former clergyman means to say, who see the signs of a Higher Power at work in the world and those who don’t.
“Which are you?” That is the big question for Graham, his brother Merrill, his young children, and each of us sitting in the audience.
It’s a bizarre proposition, a otherworldly film (a la The X-Files ) literally about giant etchings in the corn crops that explores the idea of whether or not the Man Upstairs (as my grandmother used to say) is looking after us or…

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