Monthly Archives: June 2011

I Just Reduced Prices on My CD

When I set up my CD two years ago, I set the price and didn’t really think about it since.¬† I was playing around just now and realized that, after 2 years, it was time to change the price a bit and see if I get more sales.

For a limited time (limited by when I decide to raise it again), I’ve dropped the price of the _Hide Me In Your Wounds_ MP3 album to the “rock bottom rate” (which is pre-set by Amazon, though there appears to be some kind of technical problem right now).

The price of the CD has dropped from $14 to $12, which reduces my personal profit, but I want to get it out there, and I’ll certainly make more money if I make more sales. ūüôā

IN any case, if you don’t know, Hide Me In Your Wounds is a collection of daily prayers and devotions . With a couple exceptions, they’re relatively short prayers and devotions, or long ones broken into smaller segments.¬† The idea is to give you something to pray along with in the car that’s not the Rosary–not that I have anything against the Rosary, but it’s really too long for the car.¬† In my own experience, either the Rosary gets interrupted when I listen to it in the car on a short trip, or else on a long trip it can be a bit sleep-inducing.

The idea behind Hide Me in Your Wounds is to have different prayers that you can listen to that, when you arrive at your destination around time, they’re over.¬† Or you can mix ’em with music.¬† I keep copies in my car, on all our phones, and on all our computers, and play them throughout my day.

The recordings are mostly of me, but I got recordings of my wife saying the Our Father and Hail Mary, and of my daughter Allie (age 7 at the time of recording) saying the same prayers, as well as the responses on the Litany of the Saints.  A lot of people say this is what makes the CD special.  A nice lady from Ireland wrote a review on Amazon saying how nice it was to have a CD that was a family praying.  At times, Allie yawns, which people have given both positive and negative feedback on, but most say that it adds to the CD by being a little lesson in perseverance, etc.

Nuns have told me it’s changed their prayer lives.¬† A friend uses it in her CCD classes.¬† Another friend says she listens to it every day on her IPad while she does her chores.¬† My sister-in-law, with whom I have a fairly typical sister-in-law kind of relationship, says she listens to it every day and wishes everyone had a copy.


How He-Man, Rudolph, Underdog, and Bob the Tomato became Corporate Cousins

I love interesting pop culture stories, and I love interesting corporate stories, and the story of Classic Media rivals TimeLife Warner Bros AOL Turner whatever it’s now called, and Comcast NBC Sheinhardt (ha) Universal GE whatever in the annals of corporate synergy, though on a smaller scale.

Classic Media was started by former Broadway Video executive John Engelman and Marvel CEO Eric Ellenbogen “in hopes of acquiring mismanaged classic properties and giving exposure to them” (Wikipedia).¬† Unfortunately, the Wikipedia entries have changed over the years, so I can’t double check the exact details, but, basically, Classic started as a spin off of Broadway video.¬† It made its name by buying bankrupt properties.¬† This includes the video arm of the defunct Golden Books, which itself includes most of the pre-1974 Rankin-Bass library (hence Rudolph), Underdog and other properties.

In 2003, Classic Media purchased Big Idea, the parent company of VeggieTales, which had gone bankrupt due to a lawsuit.¬† Ironically, the lawsuit was filed against Big Idea by HiT Entertainment.¬† HiT had acquired the company that had VeggieTales’ distribution contract, and Phil Vischer for some reason was not morally comfortable doing business with HiT.¬† He had a verbal agreement with his distributor that opted him to use a different distributor if they were ever bought.¬† In the long run, Big Idea won the lawsuit when it came before the Supreme Court, but not before going bankrupt in legal fees, especially following overexpansion and the lackluster theatrical performance of _Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie_.
So, Classic Media acquired VeggieTales.  In 2006, Classic sold itself to a company with a similar vision, the UK-based Entertainment Rights.  Entertainment Rights ironically has ties to HiT Entertainment, both as a competitor and as  the companies split some of the rights of certain properties.

Interestingly, Entertainment Rights already owned Lou Schiemer’s defunct studio Filmation, which had a similar history to Big Idea.¬† Filmation was known for producing advertisements and Saturday morning cartoons but made its name with the 1970s _Star Trek_ Animated Series, which won an Emmy for its sophisticated storytelling (episodes were often written by the same writers as the TV series).¬† They also had a successful 1970s live action series called _Ghostbusters_ and some adaptations of DC properties, including Captain Marvel and Batman.

When _He-Man and the Masters of the Universe_ came out in the wake of loosened FCC regulations regarding censorship of cartoons, it pioneered both the “toy-based cartoon” of the 1980s and the “made for afternoons” cartoon.¬† Up until then, cartoons broadcast on early mornings or afternoons were syndicated reruns of old Saturday morning cartoons.¬† MOTU was the first cartoon to be created specifically for first run syndication in the afternoons, and paved the way for _GI Joe_, _Transformers_ and others series.


When Columbia came out with the movie _Ghostbusters_ in 1984, it didn’t get approval from Filmation, which owned the trademark to the name “Ghostbusters.”¬† Filmation sued Columbia and suffered a similar fate to Big Idea: Filmation ultimately won the lawsuit, but legal fees combined with overexpansion drove it into bankruptcy.¬† Meanwhile, Filmation decided to capitalize on its license and Columbia’s violation of the trademark by introducing a _Ghostbusters_ cartoon based on the 1970s series.¬† Therefore, the animated versions of the Columbia version were known under names such as “The Real Ghostbusters,” “Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters” or “Extreme Ghostbusters.”

He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special

What does the He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special have over most of the Rankin & Bass specials? It actually mentions Jesus!!

Filmation, again, was purchased by Entertainment Rights.¬† Entertainment Rights purchased Classic Media in 2006, but *also* engaged in too much overexpansion and went bankrupt.¬† In 2009, Engelman and Ellenbogen, with a new partner GTCR, bought Entertainment Rights under the new holding company Boomerang Media (how they got away with that name, I don’t know).¬† Reportedly, they paid less for the whole enchilada than what Entertainment Rights originally paid them for Classic Media and even what Classic originally paid for Big Idea.¬† They changed the name back to Classic Media and recommitted to invigorating their properties.

Meanwhile, a few years ago, Mattel started making _Masters of the Universe Classics_ (MOTUC), an 8-inch line of highly articulated figures sold directly to collectors online and representing various permutations of the franchise.¬† So far, figures produced have included characters from MOTU fiction that were never made into figures, characters developed for the original line but never produced, characters from the 2002 version, the original version, _She-Ra: Princess of Power_ and the late 90s “New Adventures of He-Man”.¬† Originally, Mattel had announced that some character names technically belonged to Filmation, such as Queen Marlena and Cringer.¬† Recently, however, Mattel has produced and announced a package of those two very figures, which would seem to indicate that they acquired the rights from Classic Media.¬† They’re also doing a big push for the 30th Anniversary of the franchise, which may include a retail release of the MOTUC line.

This gets us to the news that inspired this blog post: Classic Media is launching a partnership with Mattel to “reinvent” various classic properties.¬† Mattel will produce toys based upon some of Classic Media’s other properties (i.e., Voltron), and Classic Media will be not only amping up the distribution of the classic cartoons but is also planning new productions based upon these properties.

What Andy Warhol and Susan Lucci have to teach us about being Catholic.

I just learned from Father Joe’s blog that Andy Warhol was a practicing Byzantine Catholic his entire life.¬†¬† As his personal life goes: he was raised Catholic, buried Catholic (with a prayer book in his hands), and reportedly attended Mass at both Byzantine and Roman Churches his entire life.
While people claim he was homosexual, those closest to him also say he was perfectly chaste.¬† His work was intended to draw out the hypocrisies of America’s blend of commercialism and faith; works which superficially seemed sacrilegious¬† were intended to show how much of our treatment of religion in America is sacrilegious.¬† Now, I don’t really know much about Warhol except the infamous Campbell’s Soup can and the “15 minutes of fame” quotation.¬† I’ve learned more abut him from this article than I’ve ever known.¬† Whether the article is correct about interpretation of his works, or whether Warhol was successful in what he tried to do, that’s a matter of opinion.¬† However, it strikes me that the article discusses how Warhol is often criticized for works that put Da Vinci’s _The Last Supper_ in secular contexts, which he intended as a symbol of how that’s done all the time in our culture.

In any case, it strikes me that it also gets to the relativism of what constitutes sacrilege.¬† Byzantines, after all, are very disdainful of Western religious art–not, as many Westerners think, because of iconoclasm but because they think Western art is not properly religious.¬† Iconography is a sophisticated code of theological meaning, and an Ikon has to follow a particular set of rules, or else it just isn’t an Ikon.¬† In Byzantine theology, the Ikon is itself a kind of “Real Presence.”¬† If we can equate¬† the Presence of the Host to being physically next to someone, and the Presence of the Bible to talking to someone on the phone, then the Presence of Ikons is that of a video conference.¬† Icons are Windows into Heaven.¬† Western religious art, by contrast, expresses an author’s perspective.¬† Increasingly, as Western art has diverged from iconography, it has come more and more to embody personal perspectives of artists, allowing their personality to skew the theology and prayer aspects of the work.¬† Put simply, to a Byzantine,
The Statue of "The Blessed Virgin" in Cardinal Mahony's Cathedral in LA

Is the natural result of this:

A cheapish picture of Our Lady of Grace

.  Whereas, this
Our Lady of Perpetual Help

is not just a “work of art,” not just an artist’s rendering of his subjective views but a theological lesson, a spiritual lesson, a prayer, *and* a very real means of accessing the Reality of Jesus and Mary.
So while Warhol  may have seen the Last Supper, for example, as worthy of reverence as a work of art, if he was a properly catechized Byzantine, he may not have seen it as particularly worthy of reverence as a work of religion (not saying I agree, just pointing this out).


That said, the keynote of the article is that Warhol remained a devout Catholic his whole life.¬† However, he did not advertise it, for fear that, while he intended his work to send a prophetic message, it might scandalize people if they knew he was Catholic, so he sat quietly in the back of church and didn’t go to Communion where he might be recognized.¬† While the latter is perhaps a bit extreme, it also gets into Western versus Eastern views of receiving Communion.

This all reminds me of an article I read recently about 40+ year _All My Children_ star Susan Lucci (Erica Kane).¬† She recently came out with an autobiography called _All My Life_.¬† In that memoir, and interviews related to it, she tells the story of what it was like in real life for her when she performed in the infamous story where her character had the first legal abortion on television.¬† (Interestingly, they’ve recently done a story where it turned it was a “botched abortion”, and the baby survived and recently returned as an adult–this inspired a column that argues how abortion is the cause of the death of the daytime drama, since not as many women are stay at home moms anymore.)¬† Anyway, Lucci says she performed in the story to show how horribly abortion hurts women, how she felt a certain level of guilt about it and confessed it sacramentally, and how people reacted to her.¬† Again, like Warhol, she began being discreet about her Catholicism because people were scandalized by the character she portrayed on television.¬† (I’ve also seen Lucci listed as a “pro-choice Catholic” today, but can’t find any corroboration of where that comes from).

In any case, it should be a sobering lesson that these celebrities tried so hard to reconcile their faith with their work, but also showed great humility in practicing their faith quietly given their potentially scandalous circumstances.

A Parable

I’m borrowing this metaphor a bit from the folks at Creative Minority Report, just making it a bit more direct to the case:

A man’s wife and children are put into protective custody pending an investigation of an abuse allegation (note, of course, that the law protects the claimant in such allegations).¬† Technically, the accuser has the right to anonymity in such a case, but in this case, the abuser has contacted several authorities, and the man has learned who the person is.

The man files a lawsuit against his accuser.¬† Then he announces to the world, “There is no way to prove my innocence of these allegations.¬† My wife has treated me unfairly, and these allegations are false.¬† I am therefore abandoning my wife and children.¬† I will be seeking a divorce.¬† I’ll still be a husband and father, but I just won’t live with them or do anything for them, because¬† that would require fighting for my innocence and putting me in an adversarial relationship with them.¬† Just don’t call me ‘Dad.’¬† I’ll still visit and write to my children, even though DSS says I’m not allowed to see them right now. ”
So, DSS issues a statement saying, “We’ve dropped the investigation since he moved out and filed for divorce a few weeks ago.¬† His family have moved back into their home.¬† Plus, he’s intimidated some of the witnesses, so we can’t investigate.”
The man replies, “Oh, by the way, I am not actually getting a divorce.¬† It’s more like a separation.¬† Again, I’ll still be a husband and father.¬† I just won’t be living with my family, doing any household chores, or teaching my kids anything or romancing my wife or anything like that.¬† That stuff was really a minor part of my life as a husband and father, anyway.¬† Most of my time was spent earning money, and I’ll still be sending child support checks and coming over to take my kids out to the park and stuff like that. And don’t blame my wife.¬† It’s not her fault.¬† She’s still a good wife and mother.¬† She just never lifted a finger to help me the entire time I was being investigated.¬† She threw me under the buss.¬† But she’s a good woman.¬† It’s just that, when I got sick, I had to pay for it with my own health insurance and my own money.¬† She never gave a dime to pay my bills.¬† In fact, she’s never supported me in any way.¬† She’s always mostly ignored me while I was travelling on business all the time or staying long nights at the office.”
The wife says, “I tried asking him all the time to spend more time at home with me and less time at the office, and he kept refusing.”
The guy says, “She just wanted my money.”
The guy says, “By the way, the person accused me of abuse anonymously, so I have no way to really defend myself because I can’t know who my accuser is.¬† My accuser is my former next-door neighbor.¬† I know for a fact this person is an alcoholic.¬† But I can’t defend myself.”¬† “Oh, you found out about the lawsuit I filed?¬† Well, I did that on the advice of my father-in-law.¬† Yep, it was the only way to defend myself against these accusations. ”

What would we say of such a person?

And it gets worse every day

Now, the Black One, in his desire to draw his fans away from loyalty to Holy Mother Church, is trying to sow division by undermining the authority of Bishop Mulvey and Fr. Sheehan.¬† In his latest “Black Sheepdog” blog post, he claims he’s been working closely with Bishop Gracida and Fr. Flanagan, and following their advice.¬† He appeals to Gracida’s status “retired bishop of Corpus Christi,” implying that he has more authority than the *current* bishop of Corpus Christi, and that Flanagan is the “founder and most respected member” of SOLT, implying that Fr. Sheehan is not respected.¬† He also threatens to publicize audio recordings of his accuser–again confirming Shea’s hypothesis that Corapi wants to “out” her by dropping clues, so his adoring fans will malign her directly.

A lot of people have been making hay of Bishop Rene Gracida’s sympathetic blog post, saying it endorses Corapi–well, Gracida says he hasn’t spoken to Corapi in a long time, while Corapi says he’s following Gracida’s advice.¬† I suspect we’ll be seeing some kind of retraction from Gracida when the contradiction gets around.

Why I Will Follow the Shepherds, not the “Sheepdog”

There’s been a lot of discussion today of the¬† “Black Sheepdog Who Once was John Corapi” issue.
On Thursday, I was one of his supporters, indebted for what his teaching has meant to me and always sharing his stories with others to encourage them.
On Friday, I was disconcerted by his announcement.  When Mark Shea, Elizabeth Scalia and others suggested he was on a very dangerous road to schism or cult or something, I thought they were engaging in a slippery slope, but I agreed with their critiques of the content of his message.
On Sunday, his superior, Fr. Gerry Sheehan, SOLT, has gave an interview with National Catholic Register which totally contradicts some of Corapi’s statements (which themselves, if you read them critically, are full of self contradictions).¬† Today, “the Black Sheepdog” issued another audio announcement, which his critics have denounced as even more narcissistic and riot-inciting, while his rioting supporters have used it as a rallying cry to fight for their unjustly persecuted hero.¬† He repeatedly says things like, “The Church never laid a finger or spent a penny to help me.”¬† He completely demonizes his accuser.¬† The man whose claim to fame is his alleged recovery from drug addiction and ministry to addicts has totally calumniated his accuser as an evil alcoholic.¬† Worst of all, the man who used to preach on the importance of the sacraments and how the sacraments are the lifeblood of the priesthood says he doesn’t mind giving up the priesthood “because the sacraments aren’t all that important!”¬† WT#?!!

I’m crying just thinking about it.¬† This man has completely gone over to the devil.¬† Whatever he did or did not do with this woman, and I’m inclined to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, I have at this point come to agree 100% with his harshest critics, and his “supporters” or “fanbase” or whatever you want to call them–I call them cultish fanatics–are the main reason, but here are the reasons, laid out:

1.¬† I know Corapi has lied.¬† Both in March and over the past 4 days, his public statements on this matter have contradicted statements issued by his Order, Fr. Sheehan specifically and Bishop Mulvey/the Diocese of Corpus Christi.¬† As an English teacher, I teach my students about critical reading of sources, how to discern which source is more credible when you don’t have any third party verification.¬† One is to look at the agendas at stake.¬† Corapi’s supporters seem pretty content with their narrative that Fr. Sheehan and the SOLT want Corapi’s money and the Diocese of Corpus Christi is in the hands of the Devil.¬† This does not speak to Corapi’s own greed for his own money, the purported holiness of Bishop Mulvey, etc.¬†¬†¬† OTOH, we know Corapi is lying, or at least inveigling, becuase his own statements contradict themselves, and Fr. Sheehan has contradicted Corapi’s version of events.¬† And who in this situation has more reason to lie?

2.¬† Corapi has left the priesthood.¬† I’m enough of a traditionalist to say that’s a major black mark on any person’s record.¬† Some have compared him to Malachi Martin, but I’ve never been a particular admirer of Malachi Martin.¬†¬† He announced his departure on the 20th anniversary of his ordination, even while having a “twentieth ordination anniversary sale” on his website!¬† Refer above to how unimportant the sacraments have suddenly become to him.¬† It’s shameful.¬† He stammers out that he’s “still a priest” on today’s statement, but Fr. Sheehan said in his interview that Corapi submitted a formal request for laicization.

3.¬† Fr. Corapi’s supporters are hypocrites.¬† They’re saying “Don’t criticize a priest” regarding Fr. Corapi then badmouthing Bishop Mulvey, Fr. Sheehan, the SOLT in general and the bishops in general.¬† They’re saying “don’t calumniate,” even as they calumniate Corapi’s accuser, based only on his word.¬† They’re saying “don’t judge” and “we don’t know all the facts” even while insisting on their judgements that Fr. Corapi speaks the TRUTH and that Fr. Corapi is “A Holy Priest.”¬† They reaffirm my old maxim that “judge not” works both ways.

There are a lot of similar themes in this discussion to the Medjugorje issue, and a lot of the same people on both sides.¬† One of those themes is “the corruption in the Church.”¬† As with Medjugorje, the only loose, much less substantial, charges of financial or sexual corruption are in Corapi’s court.

4.¬† Corapi’s supporters are proving everything that Shea, Scalia and others said on Friday, and that some of Corapi’s critics have said all along.¬† On Facebook, one of my FB friends who’s a Carmelite nun said in all charity that she didn’t think Fr. Corapi was cut out for religious life and might do better as a layman, after all, and Corapi’s fanatics attacked her, questioning whether she was even a nun, etc.!¬† I’ve seen priests and deacons maligned on their blogs and FB walls by these people, who are saying things like, “How can you malign another priest, you evil priest?!”

5.¬† Corapi has taught the wrong kind of spiritual warfare.¬† I’ve seen a whole list of people I admire fall down similar paths to Corapi: Bud Macfarlane (who did to his family what Corapi did to his priesthood); Fr. Euteneuer, and others.¬† One of the common threads is an overly militaristic view of spirituality, which sounds OK but after seeing so many people with that view going off their rockers, I wonder.¬† In any case, Corapi’s preaching blurred the line between authentic spiritual warfare–fighting the evil tendencies in ourselves while also trying to fight the ability of demons to tempt or torment ourselves and others–while a more Muslim view of it.¬† Over the years, many of Corapi’s critics have accused him of making too much of an “us-versus-them” attitude within the Church, and his supporters’ actions over the past few days have validated that concern about his preaching.¬† If you’re not totally 100% on Fr. Corapi’s side, they see you as an agent of the Devil.

I remember reading someone with a similar critique of Bud Macfarlane’s teachings on “spiritual warfare.”¬† Macfarlane popularized an idea called “E5 Men,” spun off Medjugorje’s extreme fasting requirements, whereby a man is expected to fast on bread and water every Wednesday for his wife, mother, etc.¬† Macfarlane referred to it as spiritual “special forces” and made an analogy about blasting the Devil with a heavy machine gun.¬† The priest who was critiquing Macfarlane’s metaphor said, “Is he talking about blasting the Devil with a machine gun, or his wife?”

Something similar was at work in Corapi’s teaching, and I’ve often read people suggesting it, but I thought they were misunderstanding him.¬† Now that I’ve seen the fruits of his teaching in people’s hearts, I see that his critics were right all along.

6. While simultaneously insisting on how Fr. Corapi is important because of all the good he’s done for the Church, and because he’s a voice for “the Truth,” his supporters are denouncing in his name many others who have done good for the Church: Bishop Mulvey, Fr. Sheehan, Mark Shea, Jimmy Akin, Patrick Madrid, Al Kresta, various bloggers, including priests and nuns and deacons.¬† They’re even talking about trying to shut down EWTN to protests permanent cancellation of Corapi’s programming!¬† The Devil is certainly at work here, and it’s not among Fr. Corapi’s critics.

7. Speaking of “right all along,” there are a number of issues people have been concerned about and talked about since before this story broke in March.¬† One is Corapi’s mysterious alleged illness and disappearance from public view for a couple years.¬† Another is the fake suntan and dyed Goatee which he’s been sporting since his return to the public eye.¬† Another is the question of his finances.¬† None of these things indicate a man of humility and poverty.¬† Fr. Sheehan has said that on several occasions he’s tried to reach out to Fr. Corapi to get him to come back and live in community with the SOLT (which is not an order but still trying to achieve that status.¬† When Fr. Flanagan original set the order up, he gave the priests a lot of leeway and did not require a vow of poverty.¬† The society’s 1994 constitutions changed those terms).

Then there’s the question of his priestly faculties.¬† The Diocese of Corpus Christi claimed that Fr. Corapi never even had faculties in their diocese.¬† He lives in Kallispell, Montana, and yet has had no faculties granted to him by the Diocese of Helena.¬† This is most important, because a priest cannot administer sacraments in a diocese without the bishop’s approval.¬† It doesn’t matter where he’s incardinated.¬† Even if he’s incardinated in Corpus Christi, he can’t administer sacraments in Montana without the approval of the local bishop.¬† Ordinarily (no pun intended), this requirement is delegated to the local pastor.¬† A priest who’s just visiting town is really expected to check in with the local pastor and say, “Hi, I’m visiting!¬† Can I have faculties while I’m visiting your parish?”
But we’re talking about where he was *living*.¬† So, his whole day to day situation was thumbing its nose not only at the usual norms of religious life but at Canon Law itself.

Some who are more honest have said that the themes and tone of his conferences have changed in recent years.¬† Others say they don’t like the “Rock Star” persona he has developed.

8.¬† Speaking of being a bit too militaristic in his spirituality, I had recently come back to listening to him regularly for the last month or two before this whole ting started.¬† It had been a while, since I got to the point where I figured I had heard all he had to say.¬† Well, given how my own thought has gone over the past few years, I was extremely uncomfortable with the literal militarism of his talks–I was uncomfortable with that before, but more willing to give it a pass.

9.¬† The “Black Sheepdog” Metaphor, which has apparently been at work for quite some time, since it’s the title of his autobiography.¬† It’s kind of creepy, as many have said.¬† I understand his alleged reasoning, but the problem with a sheepdog is that the sheepdog needs a shepherd: otherwise, it will eat the sheep.¬† The graphic is creepy.¬† The metaphor is creepy.

10.¬† Ex-priests are not really supposed to write or speak.¬† There are things an ordinary layman can do that an ex priest cannot.¬† An ex-priest cannot do anything that falls under the ordinary duties of a priest.¬† He cannot serve as an EMC, lector, cantor or usher.¬† He cannot serve as a catechist or theology professor.¬† Exceptions are sometimes made where ex-priests are permitted to teach in Catholic institutions in places where they were not known as priests, so as not to cause scandal, but the general rule of thumb is that a priest is an ex-priest for a reason.¬† In Corapi’s case, he has already sown a lot of disobedience against the hierarchy by his speeches of 6/17 and 6/20.

So, in obedience to the Church, I will *not* be following the “Black Sheepdog,” at least not as a “fan” or “admirer.”¬† I strongly advise others to steer clear of his new “ministry.”¬† God, as I said yesterday, does not “need” another pundit or speaker.¬† God needs holy priests who are praying and administering sacraments, even if only in private.

This is a horrible tragedy.¬† Yes, Corapi deserves our prayers.¬† No, we should not “throw stones” at him.¬† However, we should also not enable him in his rebellion against the Church, a rebellion he engages in while protesting his loyalty to the Church.¬† I urge you, in charity, as a brother in Christ, to stay away from this man.¬† He may have the sugar-coating of apparent truth, but the substance of his message is poison to the soul.

Does God “Need” Us?

If you haven’t heard yet, John Corapi has announced his intention to make his suspension as a priest permanent.¬† The details of his plan of action are not clear.¬† He may be saying that he’s not going to remain silent in spite of suspension, which he already said 3 months ago.¬† Many have argued that the piece simply means he’s going to keep talking in spite of his suspension, just not as a priest.¬† But he insists very clearly that he does not want to “fight” his suspension, and the tone indicates that he is voluntarily resigning from the priesthood rather than continue and “fight.”¬† Several commentators have offered varying interpretations of his statement.¬† It’s all a bit mess now, filled with the usual hysterics.¬† Some are being accused of detraction for offering negative views of this public statement Corapi has made.¬† Some are¬† saying this validates long held concerns about his seemingly egocentric ministry.¬† Then there are the people who say, “Shut up and pray,” which I think is kind of funny since a) that’s what some of us are saying Fr. Corapi should be doing and b) he’s the one who made a public statement, obviously in order to elicit a public outcry.¬† One basic tactic of rhetoric is to get people to do exactly what you want by saying the opposite (i.e., Lincoln insisting in the Gettysburg Address that no one would remember what he said, or how often politicians are “pressured” into running for president).

My own “take” on the situation is that, while I still want to believe Corapi (he says not to call him “Father” anymore) is innocent, and while I’ve said from the beginning that this situation would likely not end in his exhoneration, barring a miraculous intervention, and while I totally sympathize with his reaction, I think what he’s doing is exactly the wrong thing.¬† I would probably do the same thing in his shoes–and that’s one of the main reasons I never bothered trying to become a priest.¬†¬† At the same time, I know that silence, humility and obedience are the marks of holiness, and I think he’d have done better to announce his complete departure from public life and voluntary retirement to a monastery or hermitage.

That gets me to the point of this post: “God needs me,” “God needs him,” “God needs you.”

No, He doesn’t.

God don’t “need” anyone.

God created us out of love, for love.

This gets to other situations which tend to involve hysterical women: the Great Lila Rose Lying Debate, for example.¬† “God wants abortion ended,” people told me.¬† “It’s important to end abortion, no matter what.”¬† “Does that include shooting abortionists” I’d ask.¬† “Well, no, of course not!”¬† And then they’d go on to accuse me of being too worldly and not spiritual enough for being more concerned about personal moral rectitude than about ending abortion.¬† It’s all very baffling.¬† And it struck me then how many of those people really have no faith in God.¬† Their God is a weak idol who needs human beings to achieve some end.¬† They have the same God as the liberal Catholics whom I rejected growing up for the same reason.

I grew up being taught, in CCD, in homilies, in Catholic school, etc., a sort of Catholicism where the *primary* goal is to do good works for others.¬† God was going to judge you when you died on how much you did for the poor (that’s true in a sense, but only part of the picture), and if you weren’t “doing stuff” you were a bad Christian.¬† To me, unable to “do that stuff,” this was very distressing.¬† One time, a Carmelite priest online told me it was important to listen to people like Archbishop Weakland just as much as people like Mother Angelica.¬† So, not knowing who he was, I read Weakland’s manifesto he wrote as a reflection on his 1997 ad limina visit to Rome.¬† It really shook me up a bit.¬† The internal logic was so sound, I said, “What if I’m totally wrong?”¬† Then I read my assigned Carmelite readings, and there was a passage from John of the Cross saying that the ultimate goal is contemplative union, and everything else is a means to that end.

Of course, over the years, I’ve learned that there’s a similar attitude on the Right as well as the Left regarding “God needs you,” only it’s about speaking out against heresy, ending abortion, etc.¬† A constant theme running among Fr. Corapi’s supporters is, “he’s the only one speaking the truth.” That’s an inherent condemnation of the many good priests who are out there, including the many good priests on EWTN, in the blogosphere, etc.¬† Is Fr. Corapi a great preacher?¬† Yes.¬† Does he have an amazing story?¬† Yes.¬† Is he the sole arbiter of God’s truth?¬† No.

It may surprise people to learn that I don’t like writing about myself.¬† I don’t mind using an anecdote or two from my experience, but I really don’t want to write about myself.¬† I’m constantly being told to write about my life–just the other day, my cardiologist said I should write an autobiography to share my trials with Marfan syndrome.¬† When I submitted to _Inside Catholic_ (which, if you haven’t noticed, is back to being _Crisis Magazine_) last year, the *last* thing I wanted to do was write another “about me” piece, when every other publication credit I have, other than my encyclopedia articles, is either about living with Marfan or meeting Mary online.

Every time I sit down to write down an autobiography, though, a) I can’t focus on a particular theme, and b) I feel the whole process is very narcissistic.¬† I’d rather abstract it into fiction, and then that has its own complications, but in any case, writing “about me” always makes me uncomfortable.

People have told me my whole life, “God has a purpose for you.”¬† “God has you here for a reason.”¬† “God kept you alive for a reason.”¬† They mean well, but it’s a very burdensome thing to be told, and I’m not really sure they know what they’re saying.¬†¬† Does God have a purpose for me?¬† Yes, to “know, love and serve Him in this world and to be with Him in the next.”¬† It’s the same “purpose” He has for everyone.¬† If by “purpose” they mean some great worldly achievement that I and only I am capable of doing, well, I don’t know about that.

On the other hand, I’ve already done a lot of good for a lot of people, and my constant prayer since I started seriously praying around middle school has been to be an instrument of grace to everyone I meet.¬† I know I’ve helped a lot of people in different aspects of life.¬† I know that even when I was a kid I helped a lot of people.¬† I’ve heard through the grapevine (or even directly) that different priests whom I thought were profound influences on me say that I was a profound influence on them.¬†¬† Last year, I was talking to my grandfather about some of my doings, and expressing my hope of finally making it “big,” and he said, “John, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve already made it big.¬† I’ve never had an article published in a magazine or been interviewed by the Washington Post.”

Which is not to toot my own horn but to say, “everything is important in God’s eyes.”¬† I have four children who would not exist if I weren’t here.¬† I’ve already made a huge impact on their lives, both by loving them and teaching them.¬†¬† They know things about the faith and just stuff in general that I’ve taught them.¬† I feel frustrated that I have so much talent, and I worry about disappointing God by not using it, but I also realize that if I could get by just raising my children, and didn’t have to worry about finances or other issues, that I would still be doing profound work for God.

I know that my own prayer life, however meager and feeble it is, has proven very powerful for others.

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta famously said, of worrying about other people: “In the final analysis, it’s between you and God; it was never about them.”¬† I’ve always taken great solace in Mother Angelica’s story about the NBC executive: “What are your ratings.”¬† “I don’t know.”¬† “You don’t know?!¬† In this business ratings are the Gospel!” “No, that’s your problem.¬† If just one soul is saved by my network, the whole thing’s worth it.”

The fact is, God does not “need us” to “do” anything, though it’s important we do everything we can.¬† God has made very clear throughout Scripture and the Saints that He values obedience and humility most of all.¬† So many saints have been tested with that very thing.¬† I usually refer to the incident recounted by St. Faustina that, early in her life as a nun, Jesus asked her to ask her superior for permission to wear a¬† hair shirt, eat nothing but bread and water, and scourge herself.¬† The superior denied her permission to perform those extreme penances.¬† Jesus said something like, “Good.¬† This was a test to show you that I value obedience to the Church more than penances or more than following these messages.”

It’s amazing how many times I’ve been told I’m evil and a bad Christian for referring to that scenario and saying obedience is important.¬† I’ve spent much of my life holding the notion that we absolutely cannot trust bishops and priests because so many of them are corrupt.¬† I still recognize their corruption, but I also realize that Jesus appointed Judas, and Jesus told His followers to listen to the Pharisees because even though they were hypocrites, they were still in legitimate authority (“Do as they say, not as they do”).

St. Teresa of Avila wrote most of her books on obedience.  She insisted there were already too many unnecessary books on prayer and theology.

I really admire Fr. Corapi’s preaching.¬† He has been a great influence on me, and I had hoped that this situation could find a resolution that would not cost the body of work he’s achieved, but his own announcement undermines that hope considerably.¬†¬† We’re often told about the false accusations against St. Pio and St. Gerard Majella and St. John of the Cross, and how they dealt with them.¬† People are still comparing Fr. Corapi to these saints: yet they dealt with their accusations in silence and prayer and humility, sometimes waiting *years* for exhoneration.¬†¬† Fr. Haley has been waited 10 years; Fr. Buckner for 4.
Then there were others who were never exhonerated, or perhaps who were actually guilty, or who lost public offices of the Church for purely political reasons.¬† We’ve had popes who resigned, after all.
They went on to live out their lives in monasteries or hermitages, becoming great saints not so much because of their great deeds earlier in life but the humility they showed in accepting their loss of status.  We have forgotten the spirituality of the desert.  St. Jerome famously wrote a letter to another desert hermit who was planning to accept a position as a bishop in the city, telling the man that he was being too worldly and renouncing Christ by renouncing the desert for that position.

For Corapi has been offered the desert and said, instead, “I want to go back to the city, even if it means giving up being a priest.”¬† What would St. Jerome say to him?

Know where You Are on the Liturgical Calendar

It can be confusing keeping track of saints and feast days, particularly in regard to the General Calendar, Local Calendars, and if you are at all involved with an Order.¬† I’ve been asked from time to time to provide guidance for people trying to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and I’m always looking for convenient “One stop Shop” options for my own prayer life.

Well, I’ve spent most of the past day and night working on a Spreadsheet that gets that process started.¬† It is ready for beta-testing.¬† Right now, all it does is calculate what day of what Season it is, and what the celebrations are, if any.

If you want to try it out, download the following attachment: Collects.

Here’s how it works (I’ve only uploaded it in Excel 2007+ format):

1.¬† The first page of the Spreadsheet, currently simply “Sheet1”, announces the date, the day of the liturgical week, and what if any special feasts or memorials are designated for today according to your preferences (see below).¬† If you are following along with the Office, then you’ll know to turn to the Proper of Saints and the appropriate Common for the kind of Saint.¬† Eventually, I hope to add features where it will automatically provide the pages, and maybe even the collects, antiphons and reading references.¬† Right now, though, it just tells you what’s going on in the most general sense.

2.¬† Here’s the fun part.¬† The second tab is called “Preferences.”¬† I give you a list of religious orders (Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, Benedictine and even Anglican Ordinariate).¬† If you wish to use the calendar of one of those Orders, enter its number at the top of the list (as I am a Carmelite, the default option is 1).

Next, it asks for Nationality.¬† I’ve done the major English-speaking countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malta and Ireland.¬† Again, each has a number.¬† Enter the number that corresponds to your homeland.

4.¬† The Third tab on the Spreadsheet is called “Saints” and is the calendar of saints.¬† I have a special column there for “Patrons.”¬† If you want to highlight a patron saint of you or your family, or else you want to add a special patron saint or celebration that’s not already listed, enter it in that column.¬†¬† You could put in anniversaries, birthdays or parish dedication days if you want to include those in your Office.

5.¬† The next tab is called “Liturgical Seasons.”¬† Don’t mess with this, as it’s carefully programmed, and some columns are hidden, but based upon the dates of Easter and Christmas for the year, it calculates the entire liturgical year, from last Advent through next Christmas.

The calendar year’s Christmas will always be under “next,” and the Calendar year’s Christmas season and epiphany will always be under “Last.”

But I put a lot of work into looking up the algorithms for calculating Easter and Ordinary Time.

The last sheet is called Calculations–don’t even go there; a lot of the background formulae are there.

Hope this helps a bit.¬† As I add features, I’ll repost it.

_Fifteen Minutes_ and Forty Years

In 1943, a little boy was born to an Irish Catholic father and Russian Jewish mother in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (interestingly, not only was my father born the same year, but my father in law was born the same year–in Brooklyn!).¬† The father left early in the marriage because of the cross-cultural tension, and apparently because he had issues of his own, and the woman and her parents raised the boy.¬† The boy’s grandfather encouraged him to sing, paid for accordion lessons, etc.¬† When he was a teenager, his mother remarried, and his stepfather encouraged his love for music and introduced him to a wide range of performers.¬† Between his grandparents, mother and stepfather, he grew up on Big Band, Swing, Jazz, Broadway, and the Crooners of the 40s and 50s, as well as the rising rock bands.¬† He dreamed of some day being in music–not expecting to be “big,” just hoping to be a songwriter, maybe a backup singer and performer.

Shortly after high school, he married his high school sweetheart.¬† Troubled by his parents’ legacy, and feeling he wasn’t ready for such commitment (and possibly dealing with other issues as well), he divorced her.

In his adulthood, he pursued that exact dream of staying in the background.¬† Including the classic “worked his way up from the mailroom,” he played piano for Broadway auditions and rehearsals.¬† He played and sang at bars and hotels.¬† He made some money performing for television ads and writing a few jingles. He worked as a back up singer and intro act for Bette Midler, Dionne Warwick (for whom he would later serve as producer and songwriter) and others.

In 1972, he had a moderately successful single under a pseudonym.¬† In 1973, he decided to try his hand at an album, not expect much but hoping that, like Carole King’s _Tapestry_, his album would showcase his talent and diversty as a songwriter.¬† Things started to pick up.¬† A young executive at his record label, Clive Davis, found his demo album and liked it.

He toured the country on his own dime, mostly still playing bars and nightclubs and smaller venues.¬† Then Clive Davis suggested that he perform a cover of Scott English’s “Brandy.”¬† They tweaked the song a bit, and when “Brandy” became “Mandy,” a hit song was born, and so was the phenomenon of Barry Manilow.

Shortly before his grandfather’s death, he got to see his grandfather in the audience when he performed on stage at Radio City Music Hall, where, some 3 decades prior, his grandfather had paid for what would become an iconic recording of: “Sing it!¬† Sing the song!” “No, Papa!”

He would proceed to dominate the pop and adult contemporary charts of the 1970s, and continue to dominate the adult contemporary charts in the 80s.  He had a record breaking run of Billboard Top 40 hits within a few years of each other.  His first _Live_ album debuted at #1.  He did a series of television specials that did very well in the ratings and won him an Emmy.  When the fledgling HBO network broadcast one of his concerts, its number of subscribers skyrocketed.

Years of hard work and “paying his dues” paid off, but the fame got to his head.¬† Like many in his situation, he overspent and overpartied.¬† He alienated his friends from before his fame.¬† He began to alienate his friends from his fame.¬† One industry legend recounts a time when Manilow dined with Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel and bragged that he was bigger than both of them, initiating something of a feud.

After 1978, the string of hits started to trickle off, and in less than a year, he was bankrupt.  His Mom died.  He went through a depression.  He found himself sitting on the beach in LA, reflecting on how empty his life was.  All of that, combined with a song he composed in a dream, lead to _One Voice_ (1979), an album that redefined his career, mixing the ballads and disco songs that had become his trademark with songs that contemplated hope, and family and friendship.

A similar outing in 1980, _Barry_, gave the world “I Made It Through the Rain” and his classic duet with Lily Tomlin, “The Last Duet” (interestingly, _One Voice_ has been recently rereleased in a 3 CD set with his 1985 album and _This One’s For You_, and “The Last Duet” has been included as the final track in a compilation CD called _Duets_).¬† Both had gotten back into the diversity of style found in his first two albums, and he had decided, after rising and crashing so rapidly, that he wanted to be more honest to himself and be more creative.

1981’s _If I Should Love Again_ (which he has many times identified as his favorite of his own work_ and 1982’s _Here Comes the Night_ refocused on romantic ballads, though each with a slightly different style from his mid-70s work.¬† Both albums follow a similar internal pattern and work as “albums” in the traditional sense, having some level of internal narrative among the songs.¬† His 1983 single, “Read ‘Em and Weep,” a cover of a Jim Steinman power ballad originally recorded by Meat Loaf (the same year that Steinman’s work was dominating the charts–“Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Love Out of Nothing At All,” etc.), would be Manilow’s last top 40 single for 2 decades.

Then he shifted gears and decided to do a jazz album.¬† Despite a certain sitcom which promoted the idea of a rivalry between Mel Torme and Barry Manilow, Manilow called Torme (whom he had never met) when he began work on _Paradise Cafe_ (1984) and said, “Mel, I’m planning to do a jazz album.”¬† Torme replied, “It’s about time!”¬†¬† _Paradise_ did well on the jazz charts but didn’t get much mainstream attention.¬† However, it showed a certain direction in his craft.¬† While it did not have the “boy meets/loses/misses/threatens/reunites with girl” narrative of the 1981 and 1982 albums, it did have a tying theme, an evening at a Jazz club, each song segueing into the next.

RCA wooed him away from his home at Arista, and some executive who apparently only knew him for “Copacabana” tried to position him amid the Latin craze of the mid-80s (Gloria Estefan, Paula Abdul, Julio Iglesias, etc.)¬† 1985’s _Manilow_ has become legendary both for its scarcity and its very different style, though a few tracks have become standards in Manilow compilations since the 1990s Boxed Set (it is also included in the aforementioned trio set).

In 1987, he returned to Arista and followed up _Paradise_ with _Swing Street_, a combination of old standards and new songs, again following a theme of a night on the town.¬† _Swing Street_ was accompanied by a TV special that semi-dramatized the album with Barry and his collaborators touring a fictional street full of night clubs.¬† It was moderately successful, and its main single, “Brooklyn Blues,” while not achieving mainstream Top 40 status, did chart on the Jazz and A/C charts.

Barry would return to the romantic ballad for the last time in 1989, with an album that was originally simply self-titled but later reissued as _Please Don’t Be Scared_.¬† It followed a similar pattern to _If I Should Love Again_, but with a heavy emphasis on digital instruments as opposed to the lush pianos and strings of the earlier album.¬† It did well, but while its singles frequently turned up on the radio for the next few years, none of them charted as highly as his earlier work.

Then, starting with the first of three Christmas albums, his career began to split in two directions.  On the one hand, he would pursue his lifelong dream of being a composer and songwriter by a number of efforts.   He wrote the soundtracks to _Pebble and the Penguin_ and _Thumbelina_.  He wrote songs that other performers sang.  He produced a few albums for others.  He talked about writing a Broadway musical.

Meanwhile, his own albums for several years were primarily covers: _Showstoppers_, _Summer of ’78_, _Singing With the Big Bands_, _Manilow Sings Sinatra_.¬† The only “original” songs he released in the 1990s were either introductory or closing songs to those albums, bonus tracks on re-releases of his older albums, and a bunch of previously unpublished work included in his 1992 boxed set.¬† Oddly enough, though, this period saw a resurgence in his popularity.¬† I forget what it was, but some appearance he did in the mid 1990s really caught the attention of teenagers and college girls.¬† Since the 1980s, he had been understood as a niche singer whose primary audience was middle-aged women (who, as one critic pointed out, didn’t really have anyone else appealing to their market) and to geeks, since were drawn to his message of hope for the underdog.¬† Suddenly, though, in the mid-1990s, he had screaming teenagers crowding his concerts again (at the same time as they were doing the same for Tony Bennett).¬† I almost gave up being a Barry Manilow fan because I didn’t like the fact that he was suddenly popular with people my age!

After the Sinatra album, which seemed to push the limits of the covers thing, he disappeared for a while.

Then, in 2001, he released his first album of all new music in 12 years, _Here at a the Mayflower_.¬† This was, however, something different.¬† It followed more in theme with _Paradise Cafe_ and _Swing Street_.¬† It was a song cycle, narrating the lives of people in a fictional apartment building, with recurring lines and motifs.¬† The overall mood was jazzier than his previous work, but still reflecting a diversity of style.¬†¬† As a complete work, _Here at the Mayflower_ has to be Manilow’s masterpiece.¬† Like most true masterpieces, it wasn’t as commercially successful, though its single “Turn the Radio Up” did fairly well.

Meanwhile, after the modest success of _Copacabana: the Musical_, he tried his hand a completely original musical, but the result, _Harmony_, was thwarted due to a series of financial and legal difficulties.  Supposedly, mismanagement by the producer led to its failure to ever make it to the stage, and this resulted in a lawsuit, which Manilow won, but there was never enough money to stage it.  In the meantime, Manilow suffered a heart episode and a much-publicized broken nose.

In 2004, he released _Scores_, a compilation of songs from _Copacabana_ and _Harmony_ (several of which had already been recorded).
Tired of the “road,” he began regular performances in Las Vegas, where, as he puts it, “old singers go to die.”¬† This led to new exposure.¬† While many of the Las Vegas audience members were fans who had travelled to see him, the majority were people who just came as tourists, and didn’t know his work, and became fans because of the experience.
2005’s _Greatest Songs of the Fifties_ debuted at #1–his first #1 album debut since _Live_–and led to a string of decade covers, all of which were very successful.¬† In that year, he also began talking about doing another song cycle, this time an autobiographical narrative about what it’s like to be suddenly famous and then crash.
Well, it’s almost 6 years later, almost 10 years after _Mayflower_, and _15 Minutes_ is here.
Dude’s pushing 70, and he’s still got it.¬† I came into this album with some level of optimistic doubt.¬† Manilow’s voice has been showing signs of wear and tear for 20 years now.¬† There are moments in the 1990 _Live on Broadway_ album, and during that tour, he cancelled some appearances due to vocal chord damage.¬† 2004’s _Two Nights Live_, while energetic and representative of his long career, has points where he can’t even sing and asks the audience to sing for him.¬† While the first four _Greatest_ albums were fantastic, _Greatest Love Songs of All Time_ seemed to me to be, as they say, “phoned in.”
(When the latter album was released last year, a critic quipped, “Barry Manilow is going to do a tribute to Rod Stewart, and Rod Stewart is going to do a tribute to Barry Manilow, and then the universe will implode.”)
I happened on an interview on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS, and Manilow sounded horrible.¬† He said, “People get a lot of hope when they hear, ‘Daybreak, if you wanna believe,'” and he sounded terrible.¬† I said, “Yeah, people get a lot of hope from hearing that.¬† They think, ‘At least I’m not as bad off as that guy.'”

So, I was grateful that Amazon had the entire album of 15 Minutes on sale today for $3.99 (maybe they still do–go find out!), because I wouldn’t be missing much if I hated it.

I don’t.

I love it.

Narratively, this is the album  he has been working towards his entire life.  The reason for my longish bio in this post, besides showing off my knowledge of Manilow trivia, is that, as he said back in 2005, this is based upon his own experiences in the 1970s of being rocketed to stardom after years of frustration and hard work, riding high, then crashing, then finding a new peace.

On Tavis Smiley, he mentioned that he’s worked with _American Idol_ 3 times (twice as celebrity judge and once behind the scenes, giving a lesson to the contestants).¬† He said that each time, the contestants said he said things no one else told them.¬† He advised them not to let fame get to their heads, and to keep their real friends close at all times, to remember that a real friend is the one who will tell you you’re being a jerk even when you’re making millions.¬† (He also gave some great singing advice which I intended to use in my writing classes when teaching audience).

He talked about how we’re living in the times Andy Warhol predicted, where Reality TV, YouTube, etc., give everyone a chance at a few minutes of fame, when you can get interviewed on _Today_ because a million people watched your YouTube video of your baby and kitten dancing at a wedding (my little paraphrase).

In terms of the music, it’s all fresh.¬† I’ve always liked Barry best when he’s being creative (not necessarily *not* covering other people’s work but at least being creative about how he does it).¬† At the same time, I’ve always felt that, as a composer, his music is a bit bland.¬† He had a hand in every song on _Mayflower_, but he also brought in a ton of collaborators–it’s a “who’s who” of songwriters and lyricists from his previous hits.¬† _15 Minutes_ is all music by Manilow and lyrics by longtime collaborator Enoch Anderson (who, ironically, has never written the lyrics to a Barry Manilow hit, though he’s written a lot of Barry Manilow songs).¬† The album isn’t 100% new: 1975’s “She’s a Star” is reworked as “He’s a Star” (they should have also included 1978’s “A Linda Song,” also written by Anderson).¬†¬† It’s very Manilow, but very different.¬† The overall tone isn’t jazz or ballad or Broadway (one problem with _Harmony_ is that he sounds like he’s trying too hard to sound like “Broadway”): it’s rock.¬† He distances himself from the unnamed “character” in the song cycle by making the character a rock singer and guitarist rather than an a/c singer and pianist.¬†¬† It sounds like something out of the mid 1980s, though the styles fall in the range of what has always been “upbeat” Manilow, including a disco finale.

The lyrics are amazing, but that’s to Anderson’s credit.¬† The overall work really is a song cycle rather than an album, as motifs recur throughout, there are a couple reprises of the main songs, and even an instrumental.¬† There’s a really cool piece called “Letter from a Fan/So Heavy, So High,” which is really a back and forth medley.¬† Some woman I never heard of sings “Letter from a Fan,” which with each verse proceeds from basic, “Hi, I love your music” to “I signed my name in blood”.¬† Meanwhile, Barry sings the alternating verses by the main character, beginning to feel the pressures of fame.
The much touted “Bring on Tomorrow” is a wonderful ballad in which the character, having just gotten his contract, comes home to tell his wife/girlfriend the good news, but she’s asleep.¬† Later, “Written in Stone” chronicles their breakup, as the character asks, “weren’t we written in stone?”¬† That song ends with a melancholy instrumental reprise of “Bring on Tomorrow,” which practically had me in tears (the combination works similar to the tributes to his grandparents on _Mayflower_, “Not What You See” and “I Miss You”).

“Winner Go Down” is a song about how people love to see celebrities crash, and includes real life snippets of news reports about celebrities ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Amy Winehouse.

As for his voice, Manilow manages to pull off sounding youthful in the first couple tracks, but as the character proceeds into fatigue and bitterness, Manilow’s age becomes an asset not a problem.¬† There is a certain “style” of Barry Manilow that appears from time to time–it’s his “choked up” voice, I guess–that at first you say, “Wait: that’s not Barry Manilow.”¬† Two classic examples are “The Two of Us” from _Manilow II_ and “I Miss You” from _Mayflower_.¬† Much of this album is “that” Manilow, and it works.

You’ve probably stopped reading about 2500 words ago, but if you haven’t, and the review works for you:
Click here to order _15 Minutes_
Click here to order _Duets_
Click here to order _Triple Feature_ (This One’s for You, One Voice, 1985 Manilow).

I used this Discography to double check many of my dates and chart rankings.

Michael Fassbender looks like a Nazi, not a Holocaust survivor

I sat through _X Men First Class_ trying to put my finger on what wasn’t working for me, and I finally realized: “This guy looks more like a Nazi than a Pole or a Jew” [or a Gypsy, as the case may be]. ¬†He certainly doesn’t look like the little boy in the prologue or Ian McKellan.

Now, I don’t think I’ve ever read a single _X-Men_ comic book, but I’m familiar with the mythos through pop culture osmosis like any self-respecting Geek, and of course I’ve seen all the recent movies, though this was the first I went to see in the theater, and only because I had a hankering to go to the theater.¬† It was that or _Thor_, and _X-Men First Class_ fit my schedule a bit better.

So, the dude playing Charles Xavier didn’t strike me as a convincing “young Patrick Stewart,” but neither did the dude playing his clone in _Star Trek Nemesis_.¬† But Fassbender, the guy playing Eric “Magneto” Lehnsherr, looks nothing like Sir Ian McKellen, and nothing like a kid who grew up at Auschwitz.

Apparently, the comics have never specifically identified Magneto as either a Jew or a Gypsy, and elements of the characters history suggest both.¬†¬† However, whatever the comic book canon, the movie canon has thus far strongly implied that he’s Jewish.¬† McKellen’s portrayal in the first three films evoked someone who was bitter because of a lifetime of persecution and prejudice, someone who had a deep vulnerability which made him sympathetic.

Now, I’ve seen some awkward comparisons made with this prequel to _Star Wars_, but I’m going to do the same.¬† If Lucas had written the _Star Wars_ prequels properly we should have had no more than 1/2 hour of Anakin-as-a-kid, and everything in Episode 2 should have been Episode 1.¬† Following that analogy, here we have the story of Eric as hero/anti-hero, working closely with Charles.¬† Now, the actors have been rightly praised by many reviews I’ve read for capturing the friendship-about-to-go-south the same way McKellen and Stewart depicted the friendship-gone-bad.

However, if we follow the _Star Wars_ analogy, it’s almost like the persona are shifted.¬† Lucas gave us a young Anakin who was raised in slavery, ripped away from his mother, torn by various divided loyalties, troubled by corruption, etc., a troubled kid thrust by various crises into making some very bad choices when the time came.¬† It was sometimes hard to see how this postmodern sissy teenager driven by angst because the awe-inspiring, evil but generally composed Darth Vader.

Well, this is the reverse.¬† In many ways, the Magneto of “First Class” already is “Darth Vader.”¬† We see him in his vulnerability at Auschwitz.¬† We see him demonstrate his power in a fit of rage at the Nazi researcher who kills his mother just to get him to demonstrate his power (yet he does everything *but* kill the guy who just killed his mom).¬† Next, we see him all grown up, looking physically fit¬† (played by a German-Irish actor), apparently highly educated, able to speak multiple languages fluently, and totally calm, cool and collected about hunting down former Nazis.¬† He callously tortures a Swiss banker, kills some former Nazis in a South American bar, and then goes on a quest for his “White Whale.”

In a role for which physique should be totally unimportant, they went with a big tough guy.¬† We’re talking about a guy who can move huge metal objects with his mind.¬† McKellan’s Magneto is diminutive in stature when not wearing his outfit, but he’s supremely threatening.¬† Comic book characters are all about contrasts: Batman is the World’s Greatest Detective, and his greatest rivals are puzzle-makers and complete lunatics; Superman is the strongest man in the world, and his greatest enemies are either super-geniuses or aliens.¬† Professor X is a bald, crippled telepath, and his greatest nemesis is a Holocaust survivor with a literally magnetic personality.

This guy is supposed to be a “good guy” in the film (though a good guy you know is turning bad), and never once did I feel any empathy towards him the way I felt for McKellen’s older version of the character who *was* the primary villain.

In short, I could see Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker maturing to be Ian McKellen’s Magneto; I can see Michael Fassbender’s Magneto maturing to be Darth Vader.¬† I cannot see Fassbender’s Magneto maturing to be McKellen’s.

Pray with Me: Holy Spirit Mega Novena

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Come, father of the poor,
come giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart.

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Without your divine will,
there is nothing in man,
nothing is harmless.

Wash that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Bend that which is inflexible,
warm that which is chilled,
make right that which is wrong.

Give to your faithful,
who rely on you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Give reward to virtue,
give salvation at our passing on,
give eternal joy.
Amen. Alleluia.

Emergency Novena to the Infant Jesus of Prague

O Jesus, Who said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock
and it shall be opened to you,‚ÄĚ through the intercession of Mary, Your most holy Mother,
I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be answered.

[List Requests]

O Jesus, Who said, ‚ÄúAll that you ask of the Father in My Name He will grant you,‚ÄĚ
through the intercession of Mary, Your most holy Mother,
I humbly and urgently ask Your Father in Your Name that my prayer be granted.
[List Requests]

O Jesus, Who said, ‚ÄúHeaven and earth will pass away, but My word shall not pass,‚ÄĚ
through the intercession of Mary, Your most holy Mother,
I feel confident that my prayer will be granted.

[List Requests]

Novena Prayer to Mary, Undoer of Knots

O HOLY MARY, full of the presence of God, during your life you accepted with great humility the holy will of the Father, and the legacy of your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and evil never dared to entangle you with its confusion.

Since then, you hast interceded for all our difficulties as you didst at the wedding feast of Cana. With all simplicity and with patience, you hast given us an example of how to untangle the knots in our complicated lives. By being our Mother forever, you arrange and make clear the path that unites us to Our Lord.

HOLY MARY, Mother of God and ours, with your maternal heart, please untie the knots that upset our lives. We ask you to receive into your hands our finances, careers and housing, and deliver us from the chains and confusion that restrain us.

O BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, through your grace, your intercession, and by your example, deliver us from evil and untie the knots that keep us from being united to God, so that free of every confusion and error, we may find Him in all things, keep Him in our hearts, and serve Him always in our brothers and sisters.

O MARY, Undoer of Knots, pray for us who have recourse to you.


Novena to St. Jude

May the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, loved in all tabernacles until the end of time. Amen.
May the most Sacred Heart of Jesus be praised and glorified now and forever. Amen.
St. Jude pray for us and hear our prayers. Amen
Blessed be the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Blessed be the immaculate Heart of Mary.
Blessed be Saint Jude in all the world and for all eternity. Amen.

Our Father
Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen

Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen

Prayer to St. Jude

O glorious Apostle, St. Jude, true relative of Jesus and Mary, I salute you through the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through this heart I praise and thank God for all the graces He has bestowed upon you.

Humbly prostrate before you I implore you through the Heart to look down upon me with compassion. Despise not my poor prayer, let not my trust be confounded. To you God has granted the privilege of aiding mankind in the most desperate cases.

Oh come to my aid that I may praise the mercies of God. All my life I will be grateful to you, and will be your faithful client until I can Thank you in Heaven. Amen

Veni Creator Spiritus

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
and in our hearts take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heav’nly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O Comforter, to Thee we cry,
Thou heav’nly gift of God most high,
Thou Fount of life, and Fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

O Finger of the hand divine,
the sevenfold gifts of grace are thine;
true promise of the Father thou,
who dost the tongue with power endow.

Thy light to every sense impart,
and shed thy love in every heart;
thine own unfailing might supply
to strengthen our infirmity.

Drive far away our ghostly foe,
and thine abiding peace bestow;
if thou be our preventing Guide,
no evil can our steps betide.

Praise we the Father and the Son
and Holy Spirit with them One;
and may the Son on us bestow
the gifts that from the Spirit flow.

“There’s not going to be a Reagan @—— on this show”

It’s always interesting when seemingly separate news stories converge on a similar theme.¬† This week, this has happened with three stories about recent studies.

First, the Census Bureau announced last week that married couples are now a minority of US households, and more people are cohabiting than married.

Second, a fellow named Ben Shapiro has royally ticked off the Hollywood elite with his upcoming book, _Primetime Propaganda_, based upon interviews he conducted with various TV executives about their agendas.¬† Shapiro, a Jewish Harvard grad, asked for interviews with various TV executives for a study of “social themes in television,” and thinking he was a fellow liberal, they gladly shared their agendas with him.¬† He also recorded all the interviews, and he has published many of the videos.

I’ve read several articles about the controversy, and mentioning some key quotations.¬†¬† He’s got some real zingers from big time producers, directors, writers, etc., saying how conservatives are “stupid” and “medieval” and completely unwelcome in Hollywood.¬† He talks about some performers who, while not totally blacklisted, were relegated to B or C-list status merely because of their conservative beliefs.¬† One example was _A-Team_ and _Star Trek_ star Dwight Schults (Murdoch/Barclay), who was rejected for a role on _St. Elsewhere_ (which went to Howie Mandel) because, as producer Bruce “Gwyneth’s dad” Paltrow put it, “There’s not going to be a Reagan a****** on this show!”

Thoughts on this issue:

1.¬† The “Teletubby Principle”: Liberals love pushing their agenda in every avenue they can, but they hate it when their agenda is exposed.¬† In other words, among themselves, or when they think they’re among themselves, they’ll be completely up front about what they’re doing.¬† If a conservative exposes it, however, even *quoting* what they’ve said to begin with (or, in this case, showing them on video saying it!), that conservative is a nutcase conspiracy theorist.¬† Way back in the late 1990s, gay publications started proudly proclaiming that the then-new PBS fad, _Teletubbies_, was full of homosexual subtext.¬† Someone writing for a magazine owned by Jerry Falwell quoted what these gay rights activists were saying about the show, and the mainstream media spun the story as, “Jerry Falwell says _Teletubbies are gay.¬† What a loon!”¬† (Falwell for his part said he thought _Teletubbies_ was a great show, that his grandkids watched it, and he didn’t even know of the controversy till everyone else did).
The MSM, including FOX News, like to push the notion that conservatives are uneducated and anti-intellectual, but whenever conservatives demonstrate critical thinking skills or cite their sources, it’s “paranoia,” “conspiracy theories,” etc.

I spent 2 years in graduate school taking classes from liberal literature professors telling me all about postmodernism, Marxist criticism, feminist criticism, etc.¬† It’s OK if you apply those methods *as* a liberal among liberals, but if you’re a conservative, and you turn their own methods back on them, you’re a bigot and a conspiracy theorist.¬† Thus, the “spin” on Shapiro’s book is not what he’s recorded and quoted straight from the horses’ mouths, but it’s that Shapiro is obviously a racist and a liar!!

2.¬† For example, I just saw a comment from one liberal who referred to Stephen Colbert (the liberal Catholic darling of all sorts of people) saying that “Hollywood has a liberal bias because life has a liberal bias.”¬† To the minds of liberals, conservatism = racism, and the existence of minorities is itself liberal.¬† They’re trying to spin Shapiro’s quotations to make it sound like Shapiro is uncomfortable with depictions of minorities on TV.¬† That’s not Shapiro’s point.¬† One of the most-quoted points in the book is that Sesame Street was intended for inner city minority kids.¬† This is no closely guarded secret that Shapiro has uncovered by deep cover spy work; it can be found in any article or retrospective about the show.¬† My kids and I were watching the old 20th Anniversary special on tape a couple months (OK, I was watching it; the kids left the room) back, and they talked about the same thing.¬† Gordon (played by a different actor then) was originally supposed to be the main character, and Oscar the Grouch was supposed to be a metaphorical racist. Now, what the liberals are taking out of Shapiro talking about this is that *he’s* a racist because he doesn’t like that _Sesame Street_ depicted minorities.¬† That’s not his point.¬† His point is that the producers of _Sesame Street_, like typical liberals, have a condescending attitude towards minorities.

His point is that _Sesame Street_, by the producers’ own admission, is designed to make children comfortable with liberal ideas like divorce, etc.¬† Again, watch any retrospective special, DVD commentary, or whatever about _Sesame Street_, and they’ll brag about the “expert educators” they use to determine how to integrate “social themes” into the show.¬† I’m a huge Henson fan, but come on, watch or read *any* real life interview with the guy, and it’s¬† obvious he was a pinko.¬† He made no secret of it.¬† And Sesame Street is on the Socialist Broadcasting System.¬† What is the big secret?¬† The only reason people find this notion absurd is precisely that they’ve been brainwashed by it.

3.¬† Does anyone think people like Susan Harris, Linda Bloodworth Thomason, Tony Thomas or Norman Lear are *not* flaming liberals?¬† Again, they make no secret of their agendas!!!¬† They say it!¬† The only thing that makes Shapiro’s book special is that he catches them showing what absolute contempt¬† they have for conservatives, and even that is no big secret.
Yet the idiots in the comboxes keep saying things like, “Don’t conservatives have something better to do,” and “Come on, it’s just a TV show.”¬† And we’re to believe that conservatives are idiots?

A liberal won’t let you read a book or watch a show or movie, without telling you every little theme of subtext in it, and without insisting it *has* to have subtext, but if a conservative does the same thing, the conservative is a nutjob, a time waster, a spoilsport, etc.

That brings us to the third related tidbit in the news this week: a survey which asked Americans what percentage of the population they think is homosexual.¬† 52% of Americans think that 20% or more of the population are gay.¬†¬† 35% think that 25% or more are gay, which means that they think there are more “gay” people than Catholics, African Americans, Hispanics, etc.¬†¬† In reality, the most generous figure of people who identify themselves as “gay” or bisexual is maybe 4%.

Another case of liberal hypocrisy I like to point out, along with the “Teletubby Principle”, is how, when Ellen Degeneres “came out of the closet” and had her TV character do the same, ABC said it was important to represent gays and lesbians on TV because they were supposedly 10% of the population.¬†¬† A couple years later, when the Catholic League led a coalition of devout religious groups (Including the Jewish ADL) and pro-life groups in protesting ABC’s _Nothing Sacred_, the network claimed, “We cannot allow programming decisions to be made by what amounts to 10% of the population.”¬† HUH?¬† (And so they think that sincere religious believers and pro-lifers account for only 10% of the population??)

Joe Carter at First Things matches these perceptions up to GLAAD’s evaluations of representations of “GLBT” people on scripted “prime time” television (he notes the numbers are even higher if you include “reality TV,” news, talk shows and daytime dramas.¬† Now, the number of gay characters on network and cable scripted series today has skyrocketed since Ellen’s controversial outing nearly 20 years ago.¬† The number of prominent “gay” characters out of the total number of regular and recurring characters on current-running shows is probably about 4%, anyway.

However, Carter points out that this doesn’t match up to the depiction of Christians, which he claims is unfavorably skewed down.¬† Of course, a barrage of commentors have challenged Carter’s claims, arguing that people presume TV characters are “Christian” unless otherwise noted, or that studio execs are afraid of touching Christianity and courting controversy.¬† Yet they’re *not* afraid of courting controversy by a) insulting Christians; b) depicting committed Christians, if at all, as hypocrites and freaks¬† and terrorists; c) depicting *other* religions in a favorable manner; d) depicting divorce, fornication, adultery, etc.

If the argument is that characters on TV should fairly depict what America “looks like,” and so they need to have a certain percentage of gay characters just like they have to have certain percentages of black and hispanic and female characters, that’s fine.¬† Then let’s look at ABC’s statements about the _Ellen_ controversy and the _Nothing Sacred_ controversy again: 10% are homosexual (actually, far less)?¬† 10% are pro-life, committed believers of Christianity and Judaism (actually, far more)?¬† Then there should be at *least* as many characters on TV who are sincere, committed Evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox Jews as there are characters who are gay.

Why don’t we ever see a TV show with a man or woman who has more than 3 kids *and is happy about¬† it*?

I’m pretty sure there are more Catholic monks and nuns in this country than Buddhist monks, but if TV shows want to depict someone “holy” and “at peace” and all that, they show a Buddhist monk or monastery.

People on TV shows and movies always recommend yoga and tantric meditation and stuff as ways of attaining peace, but you never hear them suggesting the Rosary or Eucharistic Adoration.

Quotes of Wisdom come from Confucius and the Bhagavad Gita and whatever, but never from the Bible.¬† If they do quote the Bible, it’s that one verse from Leviticus they love to quote, or maybe Psalm 23 or something, and usually it’s some made-up verse that anyone with a modicum of familiarity with Sacred Scripture knows doesn’t exist.¬† (One of my favorite examples of this was a time on _The X-Files_, when a “Bible verse” was cited from the Gospel of John.¬† I forget the exact made-up chapter and verse they used, but it implied that the 21-chapter Gospel of John had well over 50 chapters).

And people think there is no liberal bias in the media?

A Refresher Course on my Dream Presidential Candidate

She would support:

1) Malta level laws on abortion and contraception, being passed NOW
2) End to “no fault” divorce.¬† Promotes covenant marriage and jail sentences for adulterers.¬† Supports abolishing the Dept. of Education and putting control of education and educational spending at the local level.
3) Favors maintaining and protecting but also reforming current welfare programs while eliminating “welfare for the rich,” NEA, NEH, PBS/NPR, and drastically reducing the “defense” budget to support a defensive, rather than invasive, military.¬† Use our troops to protect our borders and stop illegal immigration and smuggling.
4) Supports a Fair Tax, with no sales tax on food, medical expenses, rent, or second-hand items (including used cars and houses).  Contrary to claims that Sales Taxes unduly burden the poor, it would put the burden on those who engage in conspicuous consumption.
5) Favors  Supports a peace-oriented foreign policy, opposes intrinsically evil nuclear weapons, use of torture, and attacks on civilian targets.
6) Supports policies that encourage ownership of labor by the workers themselves: privatizing many functions currently performed by government workers (even if those functions are still paid for by the government through contracting), encouraging if not requiring corporations to have employee stock plans, encouraging actual home ownership as opposed to mortgages, encouraging degrees in education, medicine and practical trades.
7) Promotes alternative energy research and usage.  Promotes recycling and the use of land for actually growing food.  Eliminates federal, state and local zoning regulations and restrictive covenants that discourage gardening, alternative energy devices or hang drying clothes.
8) Promotes authentic healthcare reform, including tort reform on the one hand but also requiring loss of licenses if medical professionals reach a threshold of complaints.