Sunday, September 30, 2007


I just watched my favorite baseball team, the NY Mets, suffer what the statisticians say is the worst collapse of a baseball team in major league history. No team with a 7 game division lead in mid-September has ever lost their spot in the playoffs . Until now.
Interestingly enough, the Mets broadcasters - Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling - said that part of the problem was "hubris." Anyone who's ever taken a literature class probably knows that hubris is defined by Webster's as "exaggerated pride or confidence." According to Cohen, Hernandez and Darling, some of the Mets were quoted this week as saying "Sometimes we're so good, we get bored." That statement reminded me of one of the only quotable lines in "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith," a movie not known for its sparkling dialogue. The line was "Twice the pride, double the fall." This is a fall that both the team and fans should remember for a long time. I know that whenever I get cocky, something happens that knocks me back to reality. The Mets have got 5 months to deal with that reality and hopefully come back smarter and better.

On a positive note, Cohen, Hernandez and Darling have become an insightful and entertaining broadcast team, and at this point, I will miss their work more than I'll miss watching the team play. I also admire them for not being afraid to criticize the team that employs them when it's well deserved. These guys will hopefully have many more years together.

I know many Met fans will hate me for this, but for the next few weeks, I'll be rooting for the Yankees. Sorry.


If you're dissatisfied with the way religion is covered in the mainstream media, here's an enlightening article from "Our Sunday Visitor" that does a great job at explaining why the MSM often get things wrong.

According to Raymond Arroyo, veteran journalist and host of EWTN's "The World Over," one of, if not the greatest, problem in the mainstream media's religion reporting is the reporters themselves. Many, he said, have little or no religious training, view faith as a mere curiosity and can't understand the significance of what they're covering. They also, he said, lack basic knowledge of religious history and doctrine.
Arroyo recalled one journalist for a major network approaching him at the papal conclave in 2005.
"He said, 'I know they call this the Holy See, so when did the water recede?' And he was being serious," Arroyo told Our Sunday Visitor. "Most journalists are stone dumb when it comes to theological matters. And this is a complex beat. You're dealing with thousands of years of history and laws. It's hard enough for me to get it right as a lifelong Catholic."
On top of that, Krista Tippett, who hosts the weekly National Public Radio program "Speaking of Faith," believes most journalists approach religion assuming that it's subjective and, therefore, not to be taken seriously.
"It's not that most people sit down and decide that," she said. "But the bias is there, which means journalists aren't taking the time and care to do the research and analysis they would for other stories."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


My father's been in the hospital with pancreatitis since Saturday so I haven't had time for blogging. In the meantime, here's a link to an interesting blogpost about a popular book series.


Stephenie Meyer has taken the book world by storm. The first two novels in her Twilight series – 2005's Twilight and last year's New Moon – have over 1.6 million copies in print. Her highly anticipated third novel, Eclipse, was released on August 7 with a 1 million copy first printing and first day sales of 150,000 copies. Though billed as young adult, Meyer's books are a hit with teens and adults alike, evoking the inevitable comparisons to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. But what is it that makes Meyer's books so successful? The answer may surprise you.
Revolving around the relationship between human Bella and her vampire love Edward, Meyer's books have many elements of a successful YA novel: passion, danger, romance, rebellion (not to mention vampires and werewolves). But, despite the company they keep on the shelves, the Twilight novels mark a departure from the typical YA novels that have helped the category to explode in recent years, stirring up quite a bit of controversy in their wake. And understandably so, as many YA novels have strong sexual content even though they are targeted to teens and are of course being read by even younger readers. The popular Gossip Girls books, for example, have been described as "sex-saturated" by New York Times columnist Naomi Wolf, and recent YA titles such as Doing It, The Anatomy of a Boyfriend, and Restless Virgins make it clear what kind of content the books contain. Their age ranges? Fourteen and up.
But the overwhelming success of Meyer's books shows that both teens and adults may be growing tired of the constant stream of sex being sent their way, as the Twilight books contain no sex scenes or explicit content. In fact, they have strong abstinence themes, as well as quite a bit of chivalry and romance, with a twist of morality. And, to their readers, that makes them extremely sexy.

Monday, September 17, 2007


- I thought the presenters were great! Instead of the stilted, poorly-written, squirm-inducing presenter-banter usually featured during the Oscars, the Emmys presented funny bits by comedians or comic actors to introduce categories. From Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, these presenters were actually consistently entertaining to me as a viewer.

- Some people like to knock Ryan Seacrest but he's damn good at what he does. Hosting a live TV show - and making it look effortless - is no easy task. Ryan did a good job.

- One of my favorite acceptance-speech moments was Thomas Haden Church who won for the cable movie "Broken Trail" dedicating his award to David and Lynn Angell. For those who don't know, David Angell was one of the creators of the sitcom "Wings" on which Church got his start playing dimwitted mechanic Lowell. David Angell and his wife Lynn were killed in one of the terrorist plane crashes on Sept. 11, 2001. Invoking their names was a classy thing to do and a sign that Church remembers the people who helped him along the way.

- Sally Field could have had a memorable acceptance speech if she'd just stopped talking after making her point about mothers and war. But she had to keep going even when she couldn't remember what she wanted to say. It took away from her moment and turned it into heavy-handed sermonizing which got cut off on TV anyway. Sometimes public figures should be remembered that making a point and then being quiet can still be very effective.

- Hollywood worked Al Gore into another Awards show?

- And James Spader as Best Actor in a Drama?? Even he seemed embarrassed. I don't even watch "The Sopranos" and thought James Gandolfini deserved to win. (Kudos to Spader though for making a funny acceptance speech.)

- My favorite winner of the evening was Terry O'Quinn who plays John Locke on "Lost." His character has been compelling from the very beginning and he deserves this great recognition.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Becoming successful is a consuming passion for many actors. But “General Hospital” star Jason Gerhardt (Cooper Barrett) has a different set of priorities.

Jason’s original plans were to attend college and become either a politician or an investment banker. Though he did some modeling while in school to help pay the bills, he got a job with Sprint in Kansas City after graduation and planned to pursue his Masters degree. Then the acting bug bit.

As Jason recounted on the radio program “Personally Speaking with Monsignor Jim Lisante,” his reaction was somewhat unusual – “I prayed for God to take (the desire) away…but He never did. I wanted to make sure that my heart was right especially going into this kind of business. I’d…looked at it as kind of a frivolous profession. It’s just not me to go ‘hey look at me.’ Most of the people that I had met who wanted to get into this profession were more of those types of personalities.”

Since that desire never went away, Jason followed what he saw as God’s plan and became an actor. Though he ‘consulted’ with God on this major life decision, Jason wasn’t always so spiritually minded. That changed when he started attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Jason’s parents had gone through a nasty divorce while he was finishing high school so he arrived at college having gone through an emotional ringer. He joined the gospel choir, not because of any particular religious reasons, but because he enjoyed the energy and power of the music. One night, the choir was singing the hymn “The Storm Is Passing Over” when Jason was suddenly hit with an awareness of God and how much his life was in need of a relationship with his creator. While admitting he wasn’t a goody two-shoes during his college years, Jason found himself growing increasingly closer to God, and feeling the love, peace and joy He brings.

For Jason, living his faith beyond church walls is about being real. Regarding his evolution as a Christian, he said, “The more I’m centered in reading God’s word and praying, (I realize) it’s not that everything goes fine and that everything is beautiful and wonderful and all that. It’s that even amongst all the crap that might be going on in your life..., there’s always a sense of peace when you connect with the Father. It’s the joy and the love that he gives so abundantly even through all that stuff. You can always tap into it. It’s learning to tap into it more often rather than getting so busy and wrapped up in everyday life. That’s the maturity that continues to happen in my life.”

Jason also realized that others may be in a different spot on their journey of faith, and that it’s important to meet people where they are - “That’s the delicate balance in just sharing and understanding…Maybe (some people are) real ticked off at God because certain people have died in their life and they think God is to blame. So you’ve got to be sensitive to that and know that it’s okay. Sometimes that anger doesn’t mean they’re that far away from God. It actually means they’re closer, they’re thinking about it.”

Jason has a longstanding commitment to children’s ministries because he realizes that many kids today are motherless or fatherless or that they’re in families where they’re not taught that they’re children of a God who loves them and wants them to do wonderful things. His passion for helping kids only increased when he and his wife Chalae had their daughter Madyson. Jason notes that being a father has shown him the true riches of life. And fatherhood, he adds with a laugh, completely changed his idea of a good time on a Friday night. With a second child on the way in the Fall of 2007, Jason can look forward to many more of those good times.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Mark Shea's blog has an insightful take on Harry Potter which, according to the blogosphere, is still stirring up significant controversy. Here's an excerpt from Shea:

One of the most common complaints about the books is that they seriously teach children a belief in magic and, in particular, introduce them to traffic with the demonic. A quick Google shows that plenty of ignorant Christians make fools of themselves leveling this charge (an activity that does much to persuade millions of normal people that the Church is, yet again, an island of irrelevance in an ocean of pain, bent on crushing one of the few joys that most people can agree on out of some perverse loathing of pleasure). As somebody who is involved in Catholic evangelization, I think this matters, not for the sake of the Harry books, but for the sake of the faith. When Christians run around shouting "Wolf!" and there is no wolf, it matters because sooner or later there will be a wolf and when he comes nobody will listen to us because we were the nutters who saw the hand of Satan in a Procter and Gamble logo and the killjoys who accused people of being dupes of the devil for the crime of enjoying a few diverting novels.

The simple fact is this: the books are not occultic. Magic is not real. The Latin doggerel spells don't work. There are no Blast-Ended Skrewts or giant spiders named Aragog. Ford Anglias don't fly and Whomping Willows do not exist. The book does not teach children to invoke demons. The magic of Harry is, as John Granger points out, "incantational", not "invocational", *exactly*, like the magic of Gandalf. You say the magic words and the door opens, whether it is the door to Moria or the door to the Gryffindor common room. No principalities or powers are invoked in Harry. Indeed, if any words are "invocational" they are the words occassionally uttered by characters in Middle Earth in which the Valar are called upon for strength and aid. Yet nobody accuses Tolkien of promoting the worship of false gods. That's because we understand Tolkien's fictional cosmos and it's rootedness in Catholic thought. I'm suggesting we trying to understand the same about Rowling's little cosmos too.

The reality is this: the use of magic in Harry Potter has exactly as much to do with the occult as it does in The Lord of the Rings or Narnia. As my friend Greg Krehbiel point out long ago, if your kid becomes involved in the occult because of HP, that's a comment, not on HP, but on the quality of catechesis in your home. That's not to deny that some people do use HP as an excuse for involvement in the occult. It is however to deny the next unjust charge: guilt by association.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Flannery O'Connor is an acclaimed Catholic author whose Southern gothic stories ooze sin and salvation, grace and redemption. Follow this link to read about how O'Connor's faith made her art possible (and thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet at Looking Closer for originally highlighting this article):


O’Connor is concerned that many people treat art as valuable only for its propositional “meaning.” If we read fiction or poetry and we look for “the point” instead of immersing ourselves in the experience, we ruin our faculty for truly enjoying it. We will see or read or listen to great art and only think of it as a cipher to be broken. The pleasure of the art will be replaced by the pleasure of “figuring it out.” Sure, there is sometimes deciphering to be done, but that is not the point of a story or a poem.

Here is O'Connor's exhortation:

"I realize that a certain amount of this what-is-the-significance has to go on, but I think something has gone wrong in the process when, for so many students, the story becomes simply a problem to be solved, something which you evaporate to get Instant Enlightenment....

Properly, you analyze to enjoy, but it's equally true that to analyze with any discrimination, you have to have enjoyed already. (108)"

Fiction and poetry provide authors a unique way to glorify Christ that more overtly intellectual genres, like theology, simply can't. These genres that aim directly for the heart and soul—rather than aiming at the heart through the mind—do not argue for belief, they show what it looks like and make you feel it. Theology, devotionals, and other books in the “Christian Living” section of the bookstore talk about belief explicitly. Their goal is to explain truth as clearly as possible. Fiction and poetry, on the other hand, tell the truth, but tell it slant. They offer an author a way to give his beliefs flesh and blood by enacting them in the confusion of the real world. In fiction, belief is not what you look at, but what you look through.