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January 15th, 2009
My Motown lesson in Martin Luther King, Jr.

[EDITOR'S NOTE — While MLK Day is celebrated next Monday, January 15 is Dr. King's birthday. He would have been 80 today. This article was originally published in Busted Halo on January 15, 2007.]…
The record spins. The needle hits the vinyl. A rhythmic tune bursts out from the speakers and penetrates my soul. At the same time, the emotional lyrics capture my young imagination. As I stare at the record sleeve, I’m transported to a time I have never known, a place far from home, and a struggle of monstrous proportions. While most kids today learn about the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their elementary school classes, I first heard about this great champion of civil rights from a Motown record. And from

December 30th, 2008
Yankee (1923-2008), Shea (1964-2008)

Yankee Stadium (1923-2008)

The champagne was all over my shirt and Derek Jeter stood there laughing. I had just played his accomplice by interviewing Darryl Strawberry in the corner of the locker room so that Jeter could spray him in the face with champagne moments after the Yankees had clinched the American League’s Eastern Division in 1996. Later that year, they won the World Series for the 23rd time in their history, and an even bigger celebration ensued.
A few years before I began covering the locker room for WOR Radio, I was a young cub radio reporter following around WFAN’s Yankee beat reporter, Suzyn Waldman. Down in the bowels of the stadium we’d see all kinds of strange things. One year…

December 30th, 2008
(1962-2008)

David Foster Wallace was a famous writer, which is not that common anymore. He wrote “Infinite Jest,” arguably the most important novel of the past 20 years, and certainly the one that took America’s avant-garde out of its incessant postmodern navel-gazing. He was probably more famous for his essays, which were published in magazines like The Atlantic and Harpers…. He had another novel too, and various collections of short stories and non-fiction. He studied philosophy when he was younger and those who know said he could have been one of the most important mathematical philosophers of his generation. He also sweated a lot, which is why he always wore a white bandana in interviews and at readings.

December 30th, 2008
(1918-2008)

I had a TV in my room from a very early age, giving me control over the cultural influences that entered my world. Using my command of the dial, the most subversive thing I watched in my atheist home might have been a sweet little show that has been loved now for generations: Davey & Goliath.
Son of a Lutheran minister, Dick Sutcliffe started his career as a journalist, but soon found himself working for the church, as assistant editor for The Lutheran magazine, then with the radio division, then television. Sutcliffe, as director of Lutheran radio and television ministry, was one of the first religious officials to realize the potential of television, starting in the late 1950s. When church leaders told him to…

December 30th, 2008
(1937-2008)

It was a long shot but I thought I’d give it a try.
Tony Hendra was making the publicity rounds for his latest book, a novel, The Messiah of Morris Avenue and I was searching for a different angle from which to cover it. Two years earlier—just after the release of Fr. Joe, the New York Times bestseller in which Hendra chronicled his own journey back to Catholicism—I had done an extensive interview with him for Busted Halo and I was hoping to do something other than the usual Q&A this time around. The blurb on the back of Messiah… provided all the inspiration I needed:
“I was prepared for my usual serving of sharp Tony Hendra satire; I was not prepared for his sensitive and highly convincing exposition

December 30th, 2008
(1921-2008)

“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports…!”

That voice, heard each and every weekend for over 40 years, was the voice of James Kenneth McManus, better known to most as Jim McKay of ABC’s Wide World of Sports, a sports variety show, if you will, that covered both mainstream popular sports and obscure sports from the hinterlands of the world. When Roone Arledge, the legendary TV executive, offered McKay the job, he said, “I think I should tell you, this job will involve a certain amount of travel!”
Sure enough,

December 30th, 2008
(1922-2008)

During the nearly sixty years he graced stage and screen, Paul Scofield was a man who had little use for self-justification, and even less use for self-promotion. His press-shy ways created something of a vicious cycle. The less frequently the celebrated British actor consented to interviews, the more frequently such interviews tended to revolve around the question of why, say, he didn’t make himself more available to the media. Or, why he had chosen to appear in so few popular films. Or why, unlike so many of his peers, he had not been knighted.
It would be more correct, however, when we speak of peers, to say that Scofield had none. He was sui generis…—universally admired by the Burtons and Oliviers of the

December 29th, 2008
(1950-2008)

A young political operative who charmed a beautiful woman to marry him for his intellect despite his dough-boy appearance, Tim Russert ended up hitting it big as the moderator of a struggling Sunday morning talk show that most people considered fodder for softball questions.
That was before Russert came along and made a trip to the dentist a more enjoyable experience for the politicians who sat across from him. His impeccable preparation made Russert a journalist whom Democrats and Republicans alike both feared and respected.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger thought their friendship would mean an easy interview, his wife Maria Shriver, a lifelong colleague of Russert’s, told him to prepare more. “Tim…

December 15th, 2008
One chocolate maker believes the curative powers of lovingly prepared food can be scientifically measured

Many of us grew up being nursed to health with grandma’s chicken noodle soup. But ever wonder why it’s not quite the same when we get it from a can—or even from a gourmet counter? Jim Walsh, founder and CEO of Intentional Chocolate, says it’s all about intention. That’s why grandma’s soup made us feel better. It’s why a friend’s made-from-scratch brownies cheer us up. Walsh believes that by applying the same concept to his chocolates, he can help heal the world in his own little way.   Walsh says it goes deeper than simple goodwill; it incorporates the cacao bean, quantum mechanics, shamans from the Amazon jungle, mind-over-matter technology, Buddhist monks…

October 16th, 2008
A reflection on the life of a deeply respected professor of sociology at The Catholic University of America

Last month, at age 71, the Catholic Church in the United States lost an important friend: sociologist Dean Hoge. Several years ago I had the privilege of working with Dean Hoge and two other scholars, Bill Dinges and Juan Gonzales, on a national study of Catholics in their 20’s and 30’s. The study was published in a book entitled Young Adult Catholics: Religion in the Culture of Choice.

October 14th, 2008
Bill Maher issues a “call to atheist arms” in his latest documentary

In May of 2002, the comic Bill Maher faced the studio audience of his long-running program Politically Incorrect for the first time since learning ABC was canceling the show. As he sometimes did, Maher began the episode of PI—an irreverent roundtable discussion on current affairs—with a short monologue.

October 3rd, 2008
The Prize-Winning Author of Gilead Turns Again to Questions of Faith and Loss

Readers familiar with Marilynne Robinson’s 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead will already know the central plot of her new novel, Home

September 29th, 2008
Paranormal State's investigator talks about God, Catholicism and the spirit world

Channel surfing on a Sunday afternoon, I stumbled upon a show I hadn’t seen before: A&E’s docudrama series Paranormal State.
All right, I thought. It’s kind of like the Sci Fi Channel’s Ghost Hunters, and a little like The Travel Channel’s Most Haunted. I like it.
But it was really the show’s 26-year-old star, Ryan Buell, who caught my attention. I watched as he made the sign of the cross, prayed, invited a priest to bless the house, and gave its owners a couple of blessed medallions. The show’s religious turn kept me fixed in my seat.
Is he for real? I asked myself. To find out, I tracked him down and spent some time chatting over the phone.
The Birth of Paranormal State…
“Can you hold on a sec?”

September 24th, 2008
A Cat, Crickets, Peaches and Ice Cream—and Immortality

My mother, the cat and I
decided to sit outside to eat
our dessert. We don’t sit there
as often as one might think.
The deck is stained
the color of our cat’s eyes.
He is always right there, gazing
through the rail – cranky, a barn cat
unable to kill, called to sit, to wonder.
The crickets scream in unison
as my mother’s silver spoon cradles
a slice of peach. She held the bite high.
My father
ate peaches and vanilla ice cream
every single night in summertime.…

That is when I knew what it meant
to live forever.
I never met my mother’s father,
but the way her eyes softened,
the way I melted too – I knew
he was a good man,
so we celebrated.

September 22nd, 2008
My technicolor memories of Yankee Stadium

My Little League team ended their season with a trip to go see the pros in action. My parents were never ones for traveling outside our suburban city limits and so this would be my first Major League Baseball game. Growing up as a Mets fan, I was upset that my first game would be at the hated Yankee Stadium…

September 20th, 2008
Artist-Provocateur Robert Delford Brown Offers an Irreverent Take on Religion—with a Serious Message Hidden Inside

The father of Funkupaganism started his sermon on how society is going down the toilet before we’d even ascended the steps to his art supply-cluttered apartment—something about how Sen. Barack Obama has made all young people angry because “now he’s a war monger, too.”
Artist-guru Robert Delford Brown, 77, was referring to Obama’s recent trip to the Middle East. He was just getting warmed up. Since founding Funkupaganism or The Church of the Exquisite Panic Inc. in 1964, Brown has made it his mission to defy the constructs of organized religion, preach an anti-corporation doctrine of people caring for people and to create art through his spirituality.
To Brown, the creation of art and spiritual…

September 17th, 2008
Busted Halo® Contributors Sound Off On What They're Reading On The Web Right Now

Busted Halo’s® contributors are an eclectic bunch of media-lovers who spend a good deal of their time checking out what is going on all over the web—from blogs and videos to what’s being covered in the mainstream press. If you like the content, approach and tone of Busted Halo, this new department will give you an opportunity to see what the people behind the Halo are reading out there in the cybersphere, blogosphere…and anything-else-sphere they might come across. It’s also a chance for us to highlight other great sites, writers etc that we love but don’t have the chance tell you about most of the time. We’ll be updating “We’re Reading…” often…

September 11th, 2008
Wacky women or the first feminists? Three books to help you decide for yourself.

At the end of August, an Italian priest was forced to scuttle his plans for an online beauty pageant for nuns, because it had been, in his words, “deliberately misinterpreted.” Father Antonio Rungi, from a town near Naples, noted that he had already received numerous requests from nuns to take part in his “Sister Italia 2008” contest, which was supposed to show off the “chaste, inner beauty” of sisters.
Needless to say, this story was picked up by hundreds of otherwise respectable media outlets.
How come? Because nuns are wacky.
Or, more accurately, pop culture and the mainstream media leads us to believe they are.
Nuns are silly (Sally Field cruising the skies in her modest-but-aerodynamic habit…

August 27th, 2008
Three suggestions for when you get back from the beach

Uh oh. Summer’s almost over and you haven’t finished Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain like you said were going to? Haven’t gotten around to The Duty of Delight, Dorothy Day’s journals? Never made it through Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Those are all great books, but they’re kind of…long. Merton’s is 496 pages. Day’s is—egad!—700 pages. And B16’s is only 400.
At some point you should definitely read each of those books. But for now, maybe you would do better with a few books that are more, um, pithy. So here are three short books, each of which can be polished off in a few hours.
The first is Cathleen Falsani’s Sin Boldly…. It’s terrific. Falsani,

August 12th, 2008
Novelist Clyde Edgerton Considers Faith, Fundamentalism, and Free Thinking

Best-selling author Clyde Edgerton’s ninth novel, The Bible Salesman (Little, Brown), is the story of Preston Clearwater, a car thief who picks up hitchhiker Henry Dampier, a 19-year-old Bible salesman.
When Clearwater offers Dampier a lift on the road in post-war North Carolina, he convinces Dampier he is an FBI agent in need of an associate. Dampier joyfully seizes the opportunity to lead a double life as both a bible salesman and a G-man.
But Dampier’s fundamentalist upbringing doesn’t prepare him for the complexities of his new life. He falls in love, questions his religious training, begins to see he’s being used, and realizes that he is now on his own in a way he never imagined.
David…

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