Friday, February 27, 2004

Redirection in Boston

Horrifying numbers came out this week about the scope of the Roman Catholic pedophilia crisis, and I'm dismayed by what Archbishop O'Malley of the Boston archdiocese had to say about them: "We must all do everything that we can to make sure that the scourge of child abuse not only within the church but in the wider society as well is wiped clean from our midst."

Even this apparently well-intended friar, who succeeded the disgraced Cardinal Law, can't refrain from lashing out at society--when no one but the church was talking about society. The church's standard defense throughout the sex scandal, from the pope on down, has been: society is wanton and immoral, so of course some of our priests are going to molest children. That dubious line of reasoning aside, did society cover up the crimes and transfer molesting clerics from one unknowing parish to another?

I'm tired of the blaming. Given the disastrous way the priests have dealt with their church's problems, I shudder to think what would happen if they were in charge of fixing society's problems, too.

Thursday, February 26, 2004


The current single by British metal revivalists the Darkness, "I Believe In a Thing Called Love," is amazing. It sounds like Kiss, and Queen, and Boston, and all those great overwrought bands from my childhood. (Do I detect some .38 Special?) The singer, Justin Hawkins, squeals in an exciting, crazy falsetto, and he even shrieks "guitar!" before the guitar solo.

This is really fun, ballsy, hilarious, decadent music. It puts all those whiny neopunk/nu metal/emo mopes to shame, and even good rock bands like the White Stripes just may pale in comparison. Let's hear it for fun. I do believe in a thing called love.

You can download it for just $.99 on iTunes. (Yes, Windows people too.)
No place like home

Charles, do you think this picture was taken in your old building? The apartment's layout resembles yours.

Don't ask, indeed. And I won't tell.
Coming soon to a gay strip show near you

The University of Wisconsin Badger Dancers.

See more fascinating snapshots of UW undergrad lifestyle choices at

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Hockey news

My childhood dentist, Dr. James McPherson, died Monday in Nashville of a heart attack. He was just 58. He was team dentist for the Tennessee Titans pro football team, and also the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators.

He was a friend of my family, and a few years ago he invited us to watch a hockey game from his skybox at the arena. It was a lovely time. After the game, he escorted us into the Predators' locker room and showed us his dentist's chair, in what he called his chamber of horrors. (That's Dr. Mac. Note the Predators logo on the door.) He also introduced us to Gary Roberts, then star forward with the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. (Dr. Mac is behind Roberts, and to the right is my brother-in-law, Roberts' biggest fan.)

It has been said that Nashville is the only hockey town in which the fans are missing more teeth than the players, but not if Dr. Mac had anything to say about it.

In a premature act of of spring renewal, I bought a computer keyboard today. It's a $10 job, made in China for General Electric.

I chose this one because the keys are almost noiseless when struck. For many years I have used an IBM keyboard from an old PS/2, circa 1984. I like that keyboard because it is very solidly built, and its keys make a satisfying clicky-clack sound when you strike them. However, much of my work involves telephone interviews, during which I like to take notes on a computer, and old clicky-clack is too loud for that purpose. I've made do with laptops, but these are more clutter than they're worth. And so today my home office turns the old Hollywood model on its head: the silent era follows the sound era.

Also, the old IBM is literally a dead man's keyboard, a possession I acquired under unusual and sad circumstances. So there's purification in setting it aside.
Department of defense

Tuesday, February 24, 2004


I'm reading Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal (New York: Broadway Books, 2004), journalist David France's well-reviewed history of the Catholic pedophilia crisis. The book is a compelling read, but something's bothering me: I keep noticing small mistakes. For example, France says the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago is on the South Side, but it is on the North Side; I know this because my mother lives in Edgewater. Also, he writes that in the fifth step of Alcoholics Anonymous people make amends, but that is the ninth step.

This is worrisome. I'm catching these errors only because they have to do with places and institutions I know intimately. I suppose I shouldn't get bogged down in minutiae, but I like to think the nonfiction books I read are credible.

I once stopped reading a book because of this kind of mistake. In They Had a Dream: The Story of African-American Astronauts (New York: Presidio Press, 1994), J. Alfred Phelps reports that JFK civil-rights advisor and former U.S. senator Harris Wofford is African-American, but he's not; he is white. I know this because his daughter is a friend. They Had a Dream went back to the library.

Monday, February 23, 2004


Some random observations about stuff I watched on the tube:

  • Because he performed so strongly on Fox's "The Great American Celebrity Spelling Bee," I newly admire Alan Thicke. Before, I had been decidedly Thicke-neutral, mostly because I knew him primarily for his work on the not-bad, not-great sitcom "Growing Pains." But on "Spelling Bee," he spelled with confidence, with aplomb, with �lan. Good spelling is important to me.

  • Over the last few weeks I watched "The Beatles Anthology," the 10-hour documentary miniseries about the Fab Four. I was familiar with a lot of the Beatles' story already, but "Anthology" has much terrific, vintage material I had never heard or seen. More than that, the 1990s interviews with George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are wonderful--sometimes revelatory, always engaging. But I'm left feeling sad about Harrison, who in 2001 died at 58 of lung and brain cancer. I found myself cringing as I watched one of the many interviews in "Anthology" in which the Beatles are seen smoking like chimneys.

  • This weekend Ereck and I watched a couple of episodes of "Land of the Lost," the 1970s kids' series. A recent New York Times article hyped the show and its creators, Sid and Marty Krofft, and I vividly remembered--well, if not the show, then at least my enjoying the show. So we got a tape from the library, and here are my impressions: the Earl-Scruggs-meets-Robert-Moog theme song is the best part, and the incidental music and end-title song also are very fine. I love the sets, and seeing them again was like visiting one of my childhood homes. And the special effects are enjoyable, a vivid if low-budget mix of stop-action photography, painting, puppetry and blue-screen work. But the acting is just terrible, and despite the fact that prominent sci-fi writers like Ben Bova and Larry Niven worked on the series, the writing in the episodes we saw was pretty wretched. Oh well. Perhaps some memories are better left on the library shelf.
  • Sunday, February 22, 2004


    Did you ever step into the twilight zone? I figured my morning coffee had not quite kicked in when I read this on the web site of the New York Times: "Paul Schrader--the cinematic auteur who directed art-house classics like 'Raging Bull' and 'Taxi Driver.'"

    Now, I may not know much about art, or film, or really anything, but when I crawled out of bed today, somewhere in the databank of my mind was stored the assumption that Taxi Driver and Raging Bull were directed by one Mr. Martin Scorsese. This seems an uncontroversial point, like saying Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa. But here was the Times, reporting otherwise.

    I was all set to go back to bed--for a week--when I looked more closely at the article and saw this addendum:

    An article on Page 19 of Arts & Leisure today about the making of the forthcoming movie "Exorcist: The Beginning" misstates the earlier involvement of the director Paul Schrader with "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver." He was the screenwriter; those movies were directed by Martin Scorsese.
    I'm glad that's cleared up! The article is, fittingly, called "Enough Trouble to Make Your Head Spin." I suspect Jayson Blair had a hand in this.